Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat star who made a reported $26.2 million in salary and endorsements last year, thinks NBA stars should be paid for playing in the Olympics.
"It's a lot of things you do for the Olympics -- a lot of jerseys you sell. We play the whole summer. I do think guys should be compensated. [...] Unfortunately, it's not there.
"The biggest thing is now you get no rest. So you go to the end of the season, (Team USA) training camp is two weeks later. You're giving up a lot to do it. It's something you want to do. But it's taxing on your body. You're not playing for the dollar. But it would be nice if you would get compensated."
The comments will draw a firestorm, especially from the "you play for the love of country" contingent. Some will point out that gold-medal winners from the US already get $25,000. Others will ask where the line would be drawn: If Wade got paid, what about Michael Phelps? Gymnasts? Weightlifters? He'll be asked about the comments all summer and will likely slightly retreat from his position in the face of international media scrutiny. There are issues on which to be firm and hold your ground. This won't be one of them.
To focus on those issues misses the bigger point: In essence, he is getting paid to play in the Olympics. Nike pays Wade a reported $12 million per year in endorsements. Nike also sponsors USA Basketball. Those jerseys Wade wants a cut from? They're made by Nike. You do the math.
Unlike American baseball and football players, basketball players are a global brand. The Olympics are their biggest platform. When Nike signs Wade to that contract, it's not just because he's an NBA star. It's because he'll be wearing that Nike swoosh while playing in a gold-medal game in front of hundreds of millions of viewers.
At least one of Wade's teammates disagrees. His Miami Heat and USA Basketball backcourt mate, LeBron James, a player nobody will ever accuse of public-relations prudence, said getting paid "doesn't matter" and that he's happy to be playing for his country.
Neither of them are wrong. The money shouldn't matter to millionaire athletes, but nobody, no matter how rich, should have to work for free. Dwyane Wade need only look at the big picture to realize that he's not.
Related Wade video from Yahoo! Sports
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