Thursday, April 12th, 2012 at 11:15 am  |  51 responses

USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo on Why NBA Olympians Aren’t Paid

After both Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade publicly supported the perfectly-reasonable idea that NBA players should get a cut of the massive revenues that they help generate at the Olympics and other international competitions, USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo was forced to deal with the issue, and explained why the folks holding the purse strings aren’t so excited about sharing the dough with the players. From USA Today: “At the heart of the matter, Colangelo said there is no extra money. ‘All of the money that is generated from our participation and the competitions the senior teams participate in in effect subsidizes and pays for the entire U.S. Olympic (basketball) programs and that includes all of the junior programs where most of these players came from,’ Colangelo said. ‘Most of them all started there, men and women. When I took over the program in 2005, they were in a terrible losing situation financially,’ Colangelo said. ‘During the next four years, I quadrupled the revenue, but that only brought us to break even. That covers all of the expenses for the men, women, boys and girls, all the way down. We sell sponsorship, sell tickets to exhibition games. Another reality is, most of the players, and in fact until this comment today, I would have said 100% of them, understand that there’s some great value to them individually for participating if they so choose to,’ Colangelo said. He rattled off those advantages which possibly include financial gains through endorsements. ‘The opportunity to represent your country is a privilege without anything further said, that’s No. 1,’ Colangelo said. ‘No. 2, the experience broadens individuals in every regard and every respect because you experience things you would not have under any other circumstance — the travel, the people you meet. Thirdly, the brand. We will live in a global economy. All of our players have shoe contracts and apparel contracts and they’re little mini-business onto themselves and in some cases, they’re not mini-businesses, they’re quite substantial. Participation is a privilege that gives their brands a great impetus and most of them really, truly understand that.’”

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  • jay

    Iverson played his heart out in the 2004 Olympics and Jerry Colangelo personally refused to even let him try out for the team two years later. The next time Iverson played the Suns he burned them for 44pts, 15 assists and 85% shooting from the field.
    I still don’t understand the selectiveness. If a player cares more about repping his country over money at least give him a try out.

  • McWill

    That was the politest way I’ve ever seen somebody say “forget you, your not getting none” lol swag. I hate to go there but… 92 Dream Team >

  • abaci

    It should be an honor to play in the Olympics, i don’t think they should be paid more to play. If you need more rest or want more money then simply don’t play.

  • http://www.twitter.com/_dfrance DFrance21

    If in fact all of the money goes towards funding the whole USA Basketball program, then I have no problem with the players not getting a cut. This is international competition, you’re representing your country. I think that should be enough for players that are making millions on top of millions all year. Simply put, if you think you should get paid, and they’re not paying you then don’t play.

  • bike

    What he is not saying is that even if there was extra money, they would not/should not get that either. All the benefits he listed if they play make it worthwhile to a lot of players.

  • http://sportsbybrooks.com/boxscores-never-lie-or-exaggerate-on-twitter-30011 Allenp

    Bet Colangelo isn’t doing that job to broaden his horizons, expand his brand and represent his country.
    Pretty sure he gets paid for his services. And I’d wager all the coaches do too, but I’m not as certain about that.
    So, unless everybody is working for free, the arguments about why the athletes work for free ring false. Colangelo has been getting money for years in the NBA, so he should be set financially, and the same is true for Coach K.

  • james

    dfrance great response i totally agree with you these guys are over paid as it is and if they can’t manage their funds appropriately thats their fault. The NBA players should just take it for the experience its also free training great competition and they’re doing something they love so what is there to bicker about. Just be proud to represent your country and have fun, money should not be an issue for these athletes.

  • LA Huey

    By the end of the week, there will be a half dozen posts on this topic instead a single one with updates. “Capitalism, blah, blah, Patriotism, blah, blah…”

  • Anon

    Sorry to tell you but these guys are actually under paid. If the market actually paid what they were worth then they would be getting paid a lot more. This is evidenced by you and being on the internet discussing them. By the previous logic you should be fine having the privilege of watching them and just be happy with that.

  • CP

    people who say Athletes are over paid no little to none about business,Athletes in this country are some of the mist UNDERPAID people in the work place based on the income that they generate,So next time you watch a NBA game,remember by you(and millions) watching help generate billions of dollars in advertising space witch the players make a very miner percent off.

  • http://sportsbybrooks.com/boxscores-never-lie-or-exaggerate-on-twitter-30011 Allenp

    Man, just keep it 100.
    Who else in this enterprise is working for free? Who else works for USA Basketball for free, or for the USOC for free?
    Since the list is exceptionally small, Colangelo’s explanation is silly. Everybody else is representing and supporting their country. And they’re all being paid.
    The logic that just because you’re doing something for your country you should be fine doesn’t make sense when you consider that everyone else doing something for their country expects to get a paycheck and receives one. The only justification is “Well, they need the money more” which is total BS when talking about Colangelo or Coach K.

  • Da-Meat-Hook

    @ James, so players should be playing for free because they make millions elsewhere? What makes you assume that DWade and Ray Allen have this stance because they “can’t manage their funds”? These players simply recognize that everyone is capitalizing off of them. Why are the players expected to be the only ones who don’t get compensated for their services??? Coach K makes 5 million a year at Duke. Colangelo is a former HOF NBA executive. NBC? Nike?! Everyone’s a millionaire in this equation, but only the players are expected to “volunteer”!

  • B A

    If Wade isn’t kicked off the Olympic team I WILL NOT WATCH USA BASKETBALL!
    Ya’ big overpaid, spoiled douche!

    We all need to wake up and boycott all pro sports for a year or two to show these pricks where they stand in the feeding order and priority of life.

    WADE: JUST SHUT UP!!! Your team pays you too much already, greedy b@#$!

  • http://sportsbybrooks.com/boxscores-never-lie-or-exaggerate-on-twitter-30011 Allenp

    Americans railing against greed are hilarious. Come on now, did you forget where we live?

  • Rik Smits Mullet

    If none of the olympic athletes get paid. where does the money go?
    the President of the Olympic games must be driving 12 Ferrari’s at once.
    The summer olympics are the most money generating sporting event in the world and they actually manage to give the athletes almost zero money.
    I would love to have a percentage of that skeme.

    Everybody knows the two most popular events are the man’s basketball finals.and the 100 m dash.

    It still would be a great honour to represent my country in the olympics.
    Especially if they get clubbered by the USA team. At least you get a chance to witness the games in real life. Unlike now where there is no chance to even remotely get a ticket for the olympic games.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgdwfMwIh5U&feature=related Max

    I’m sure they get enough money from it because more people get to know them, they will sell more,….

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Americans have no problem with politicians and wall street cats in suits being greedy but as soon as an athlete echoes the same sentiment, everyone is up in arms. Funny sh*t.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Nick Tha Quick

    “If Wade isn’t kicked off the Olympic team I WILL NOT WATCH USA BASKETBALL!” I’m sure there’ll be plenty of exciting Olympic events to watch other than Olympic hoops, my friend, like Curling, Fencing and IAMORANGE’S favorite sport, Rock, Paper, Scissors. Your viewership will not be missed.

  • bike

    I don’t think the athletes who think they should be paid are greedy. It’s more of a buisness entitlement for them. That’s their opinion. So, don’t go, don’t play.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iF30WneDtQc Datkid

    cosign Jtaylor and allenp. but if what he’s saying is true that’s fine.

  • capostat

    If the superstars suddenly decided that it was actually their “choice” to play for their country, and instead refused, what would the consequences be for their brand/fanbase, and critics waiting for an opportunity? These guys are EXPECTED to play, and that’s the leverage that Team USA has over the athletes. They didnt create it, but it’s there. I don’t think athletes should be paid, but they need something to compensate them for the energy and summer they lose. How about an extra week delay to the start of the preseason? Can’t the NBA show their “patriotism” by supporting the athletes’ efforts? No, cause one organization operates on national pride, and the other on business. Sorry athletes, you got to suck it up.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iF30WneDtQc Datkid

    also I must find the game Jay is talking about. It sounds f*cking awesome.

  • MikeC.

    I think it’s a pretty cut and dried scenario here. If USA Basketball isn’t going to pay players, then those that don’t want to play for free can choose to stay home. I have no idea how the finances work, so I can’t say whether or not anyone is/should be paid. As it stands, players have a choice. They can just say “Hey Jerry, we went deep in the playoffs and I have a ton of nagging injuries and I just need the time to recover. I’ve been to the Olympics already, let’s let a young cat get a chance to shine.” I don’t think anybody would roast any player for saying something like that.

  • BlackNicholson

    It being a honor to play for your country blah blah blah…. Most of those guys know they are being exploited. It only becomes a problem when athletes are perceived to be greedy. Go back to letting college kids play… Oh wait we got tired of loosing. If you sell their jerseys with their names on the back, they should be paid. Everyone gets paid except the players… gtfohwtbs

  • http://www.twitter.com/_dfrance DFrance21

    I think the reason why people call athletes greedy is based on the perception that they are getting paid millions of dollars to play a game. That’s the only reason. If soldiers got paid millions of dollars no one would care. People generally don’t care about politicians and wall street execs getting millions because 1, its looked at as a real job and 2, no one knows most of these guys names. if pro sports were regarded by the masses as a real job, there’d be no argument. Its the same thing when someone makes the argument that athletes are UNDERPAID. Yeah, relative to the revenues generated by their game, but relative to the garbage man that’s getting 60k to move trash, he’s grossly overpaid. Being that nobody posting on this site is a millionaire, I don’t see why its hard for you to see things from a casual fans perspective. I would consider myself more than the casual fan as most guys on this site are. We know the rigors of playing pro sports and the hard work that goes into it.

  • http://sportsbybrooks.com/boxscores-never-lie-or-exaggerate-on-twitter-30011 Allenp

    How do you decide what’s a real job?
    Based on the level of skill needed to do it? Based on the workload? Based on how hard it is to break into the field?
    Or is it simply based on whether people wish they could have the job?
    The problem is that most people think they would do the job for free. Only once they put in the insane work needed to do the job and saw the insane money being made off them doing the job they would want to get their money too.
    Because that’s how America is supposed to work.

  • Mooney10

    The plaers generate billions of reveue but that is so there is a league, if they got paid more than they are now, their wouldn’t be as many teams, thus not as many jobs, thus a lot of ballers out of work. Rep your country to win Gold, not like that medal isn’t worth $$, its solid gold for God’s sake and you get 25,000 if you win as well, not bad for 3 weekd of work, I wonder if these athletes could handle being ordinary citizens for a day after the millions they make and spend, saddest thing is Ima be radin about most 10-15 years later about how the squandered their fortune, shut up and play or don’t a**holes

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iF30WneDtQc Datkid

    you know more and more in sports I’m seeing the inherent hypocrisy about athletes pay. It’s Ok for white owners to make millions off the sweat of black athletes, bc they have “real jobs” that aren’t “easy” and require “hard work” but god forbid if the athletes that kill themselves and risk serious injury want a bigger cut of something they help create. Work is work. even if you love it to death.

  • CyberCosmiX

    Honestly, there is something to them selling jersey’s and likenesses and profiting from Team USA players, but when most Olympians are not even paid or profit from their chosen sport, and the average NBA Team USA player makes over $10-million per year, this is ridiculous. Does NBA players not understand the concept of playing for their country? They have a choice whether to participate or not, just don’t play! Now, if an archer or team handball player or synchronized swimmer were given revenue that Team USA hoops players earned, that wouldn’t be right. But the revenue that is generated is fed right back into USOC basketball programs, if Dwyane Wade or Ray Allen don’t want to help, they should withdraw immediately…

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Are gold medals even made of solid gold? I don’t think they are actually. Probably gold plated because, you know, the Olympics Committee has to maximize revenue…

  • LA Huey

    Good question, Teddy. via Wikipedia “The last series of Olympic medals to be made of solid gold were awarded at the 1912 Olympic games in Sweden. Olympic Gold medals are required to be made from at least 92.5% silver, and must be plated with a minimum of 6 grams of gold.[5] All Olympic medals must be at least 60mm in diameter and 3mm thick.[6]“

  • Da-Meat-Hook

    They always play a special on how the medals are designed and made every Olympics. They’re not solid gold. I hear so much talk about how the other athletes play for free. But the fact of the matter is that very few olympic events generate the type of revenue that basketball does. Basketball jerseys, soccer jerseys, hockey jerseys, and Michael Phelps’ speedos generate far more money off of endorsements/merchandise than other events such as the Javelin or Fencing. Comparing the sports to one another and expecting them to all be at par when it comes to compensation is unreasonable.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Playing ball professional is one of the hardest “jobs” in the world because of the amount of skill needed, the countless amounts of time athletes put into improving their game and just how rare it is to become a professional basketball player. It’s a shame that the general public doesn’t understand the kind of sacrifice and work these guys put into just to get into the NBA and then having a long and successful career.

  • http://theurbangriot.com The NUPE

    If the rule of the league/competition is that the players don’t get paid, then they shouldn’t be paid. That’s pretty simple to me. In the olympics, none of the athletes are paid to play for their country – so why should basketball players from the NBA be any different? At the end of the day, I agree with Jerry that participating on the team extends the brands of many of these players and that playing for their country should be enough. Moreover, if a player doesn’t want to play on the olympic team because they don’t get paid, then I’m 100% behind them saying no. All leagues and competitions have rules and enforcing a rule that the athlete doesn’t get paid is o.k., I’d hate to have american players paid and play against international competition that isn’t paid (and vice versa). If Wade doesn’t want to participate becaue he doesn’t get paid, he has that choice. If players, coaches and other executives get paid – I’m 100% o.k. with that IF the rule is about the players. I have a friend that works for the United Way, he get’s paid because that’s his employer and his way of earning a living. However, he depends on millions of volunteers and charitable donations in order for the United Way to survive – and for him to get a pay check. I think it’s simialr to the olympics and many other organizations where some people are volunteers and others are paid. May not always ‘seem’ fair, but I’m o.k. with it.

  • http://sportsbybrooks.com/boxscores-never-lie-or-exaggerate-on-twitter-30011 Allenp

    The United Way has been taken to task for using volunteers and donations to pay its paid staff, particularly its high level executives, ridiculous salaries. Same is true for the Red Cross.
    Just thought I’d point that out. Google it. And if you want, go to Guidestar and check out the top expenditures for your favorite 501c3

  • http://theurbangriot.com The NUPE

    I’m not disagreeing with them being taken to task over how much they are paid (can always debated if it’s too much or not enough). But the fact that some are paid and some are not is really more of the point. Feel free to donate to other organizations (or not). Athletes can choose to play for the olympic team – or not. Can’t argue amounts because that’s a never ending argument. But the concept of if you should be paid or not and the concept of if you choose to participate or not and the concept of league rules are more ‘defined’.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Ah, thanks Huey. Good Wikipedia–I mean detective work. ;)

  • shm

    @JTaylor21, Americans have no problem with politicians and Wall Street being greedy and selfish? Really? Is that why there’s been a massive amount of public outcry and protest these pass few years concerning that exact issue? Cmon man, I like Wade, but he’s wrong on this.

  • Lin4President

    Is the USA Basketball Program supposed to be non-profit? Because if it is, then I would compare NBA players playing for the US to being a volunteer service, which is what it is at the moment.

    It’s like when you go and give blood. You volunteer for it (for a variety of reasons), but obviously the administration staff, the nurses etc. are paid, which they should be. The Red Cross wouldn’t survive without the volunteers giving blood.

    When the few NBA guys are asked to volunteer their talents to play in the Olympics it is a privilege, in the sense that it means that they are the best at what they do in this country. The point is that participating in the Olympics is a volunteer gig, but a pretty good volunteer gig for NBA guys. As mentioned, it means endorsements, free travel and board obviously, the chance to play with the best etc etc. For the most part they have much more to gain from the voluntary gig than most voluntary gigs. But again, just because their efforts are voluntary, doesn’t mean that the administration, and the staff is supposed to be or should be voluntary as well.

    For the people who actually argue that NBA players are UNDERPAID compared to the billions they generate – you are in fact the ones who don’t understand business. No business pays their employees or spends money on their resources at a level close to what they are supposed to generate, its called Gross Profit Margin. The CEO of Nike’s salary in comparison to the revenue Nike brings in, is not close. The projects I manage at work are worth much more than my salary.

    The point is, the Olympics are voluntary, and NBA players are most definitely NOT UNDERPAID!

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    @ Lin4President: NBA players are not underpaid from a practical standpoint–that is, the money they earn from what they do compared to most other people.
    Going by your nauseating love for capitalism, though, they certainly are underpaid–the stars at least. NBA players are not only the employees but the product itself; they don’t work on the “project” that generates money, they ARE the “project.”
    Also it amazes me that people think it’s perfectly logical for billions of dollars to be generated and for workers (even NBA players) to be paid as little as possible. Where exactly is this “Gross Profit Margin” supposed to go if not in the hands of the people who have a hand in the labor that creates it? Screw profit!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Pardeep

    Allen Iverson was averaging 26.4 PPG and 7 apg when he wasnt allowed on the 08 Olympic team, that is when the black balling of Allen Iverson started , this is BS.

  • Lin4President

    @ Teddy-the-Bear: I am not a capitalism lover actually, quite the contrary. I am just pointing out the way business works.

    NBA players are the ‘project’ because that’s what the business makes them to be. The administration, staff all go into promoting these players as the product. But, clearly the players don’t market themselves, they don’t create the products to promote themselves. They are apart of the business.

    The Profit Margin can’t just go to the players, it has to go to the overheads of keeping everyone in the job, i.e. the facilities, marketing, other staff besides players, etc. etc.

    It works both ways, the players need the NBA staff to keep their jobs and vice versa.

    For example, when you have actors in a movie, you can argue that they are the product, but they aren’t going to be paid at a comparable level to the revenue that the movie brings in. They are supposed to help drive the sales. The profit goes into keeping the business afloat, so that more movies can be made.

    So when I say NBA players are not UNDERPAID, of course it is from a practical standpoint and not a philosophical one. That is a totally different issue, not really for SLAMonline. They are definitely paid at market value (which is a lot).

    How can we possibly say an NBA player is UNDERPAID, when we think of the important practical work of teachers, soldiers etc etc.

  • http://slamonline.com tealish

    Lin4Prez gets it, although I can sympathize with the other side.

  • That Dude

    @ Teddy-the-Bear – an NBA player is a product, like an ipod. The cost of manufacturing an ipod is about $2. Apple generates revenue a billion-fold higher than that. If they manufactured every ipod at millions of dollars, they couldn’t keep the business alive. The players and all the other people who are in the basketball business are in a symbiotic relationship – everyone is organically paid what they are worth (market-wise). Whether this is right or wrong is unrelated to the world’s current economic principles.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    We are talking about marketing and profit margins for a supposedly amateur endeavor. Just like the NCAA.

  • barnabusb

    I’m no economist, but it seems like a lot of you guys are forgetting that the league, which you are lambasting for generating billions of dollars off the backs of its players, has expenses. Of the billions of dollars the league generates, how much of it goes back into all player salaries? Marketing? Other support staff? Tradesmen? Products? And hundreds of other overhead costs. I don’t buy the league’s assertion that they were losing money, but there’s not a handful of people who are rubbing their hands together and putting all the money made off LeBron jerseys directly into their pockets. Like Lin4President said, the players need the league and the league needs the players.

  • BBaller

    “Why Olympians are not paid”, what has the world come too. This issue makes me sick and sad. Now we have NBA stars ( yes if you play for Team USA you are an established NBA player) wanting more than the proposed 25k for a few weeks work. Forget the money generated by them through jersey sales,the exposure to the international market earns them loads of money. That’s why they can say as much as they want about the “Redeem Team” of 2008 , the main reason why most high profile players wanted to play was to further their image in the Chinese market to earn more money.All players need to go back to when they were 13 and broke and remember why they played the game in the first place.What has happened to decency, pride, and valor? Even if they go to the Olympics they still get 5-6 weeks off, more than the rest of us.It’s not like it’s every year!!!I Love the Game, Love the players on court……Hate everything else about them off it.Let those who will represent their country for free (still 25k) play and those who want more sit at home.Time to look in the mirror and make a change.Peace.

  • MELO

    AI definitely deserved to be one of the 25 guys who tried out. What a way to thank him for being the only player that cared in ’04.

  • Ralph Thompson

    Lots of misconceptions here. USA Basketball is indeed a non-profit and its IRS form 990 is available at Guidestar.org. It is only responsible for USA National Team competitions. So the NBA players are essentially paying the salaries of USA Basketabll and fielding women’s and junior teams for competition. According to the latest 990, the top 5 earners make a range from $180-280K. Colangelo’s comment about the player’s once being juniors is somewhat non-sensical in that only a few players identified at a young age make it to the Senior team. Even then there is only a very marginal benefit to having played in junior competitions before.

  • Justin G.

    Look, you guys can defend your heroes all you want but they’re still in the wrong here. Athletes have never been paid to go to the Olympics and represent their countries. They get offered incentives but not a chunk of the pie that gets brought in. I don’t know if the coaches get paid but I know if their teams medal they don’t get one. Let these b*tches go back to having their precious summers off and let the college players play again, the people who are most definitely playing for their country and not the all mighty dollar