There’s One Thing Missing From The 'Forbes' List Of The 100 Highest-Paid Athletes

Serena Williams can't fix this alone.

The sports stars making up the list of the 100 highest-paid athletes from 2017 hail from 22 countries, compete across 11 sports, and banked a cumulative $3.8 billion — according to Forbes. That said, there's just one thing missing among them: women.

Yes, that's right. Out of the 100 athletes who make the most money, are all men.


Ever since Forbes began composing the list, there has always been at least one female athlete included — with as many as three doing so at the peak. Serena Williams was the only one to snag a spot last year (at No. 51) but missed the cut this year as she took a break from tennis to have a child. Even if Williams had been included this year, as much as we love her, it wouldn't have been enough. She alone cannot be the sole representation of women in sports. That's not fair to anyone.

With an estimated $285 million, controversial boxer Floyd Mayweather tops the list for the fourth time in seven years mostly thanks to a single match against UFC star Conor McGregor. The NBA leads the pack with 40 players, with the NFL following behind with 18 players included. The U.S. dominates the list, with 66 American athletes, and the average age of those earning a spot being 31 — the youngest being basketball star Giannis Antetokounmpo, 23, and the oldest being golfer Phil Mickelson, 49. 

Not only does this say a lot about the state of gender in sports, highlighting a pay gap that exists throughout all of society, it says a lot about the world of sports in general. The fight that won Mayweather the top spot on this list only lasted for little more than half an hour — this compared to an entire season that the No. 2 spot, soccer player Lionel Messi, had to play to make a distant (but still massive) $111 million. Also rounding out the top five were soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo at No. 3 ($108 million), MMA fighter McGregor at No. 4 ($99 million), and soccer player Neymar at No. 5 ($90 million). Basketball legend LeBron James, who made $85.5 million, came in at No. 6.

As for what it says about the gender pay gap in sports, that's a whole other story. With Williams being the single female athlete to be included on this Forbes list, it would be remiss not to draw a comparison to a woman who fought for equal pay in the same sport: Billie Jean King. Though the famous Battle of the Sexes match took place in 1973 — and was immortalized in a 2017 film — the disparity between tennis stars of different genders is still there. Just look at the person who made No. 7 on the Forbes list this year, Roger Federer, who raked in $77.2 million total.

It's not just a struggle in tennis, though. While the NBA is well represented, where are the players of the WNBA? They don't get even a fraction of the attention, fame, or money that the NBA players make. There has been a lot of hoopla about the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles had their White House invite rescinded, but the current WNBA champs, the Minnesota Lynx, didn't even get one in the first place. That said, they're still headed to Washington, D.C. to give back by working with a local charity and elementary school. Women in basketball don't get the respect they deserve — and there's actually no national representation of women in football to contrast. That said, we do know that NFL cheerleaders are treated far differently from NFL players. The same goes for women's hockey, which is fighting for equal rights in the sport. Oh, and women's soccer is no stranger to sexism in sports either.

With instances such as this year's Forbes list, it's clear that we have a long way to go before women feel as represented in sports as their male counterparts. Men and women should be of equal value in all facets of society — including athletics.

Cover image: action sports / Shutterstock


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