Lacrosse has been called one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. but you wouldn’t know that from the salaries in Major League Lacrosse (MLL), which was founded in 1999 and now features eight teams. The problem appears to be that the sport hasn’t grown fast enough at the professional level due to financial constraints and low attendance. As a result, players earned anywhere between $10,000 and $25,000 per season in 2014.
According to Men’s Journal, the indoor National Lacrosse League (NLL) pays rookies a flat $9200 per season, but the best franchise players can make as much as $34,000. Meanwhile, because the MLL pays between $10,000 and $25,000 per season, many of the league’s 200 players work day jobs to supplement their income.
One such player is veteran defenseman Chris Passavia. When profiled by the Wall Street Journal in 2012, Passavia was practicing law with the New York law firm Wollmuth Maher & Deutsch but since has moved over to Cozen O’Connor, where he handles complex commercial disputes and where his accomplishments as a three time Division I lacrosse All-America at Maryland and a five time Major League Lacrosse All-Star are only mentioned in passing.
MLL executives said that they aim to pay their players full-time wages—salaries increase every year—but they will not achieve that goal for some time, noted Commissioner David Gross, who said that the number of players working in corporate jobs has dropped from around 40% when the league started in 2001 to roughly 10% during the 2011 season. He added that he would love for the players to be full-time players, but that the economic reality was that the MLL could not afford that given the current revenue levels.
Given the relatively meager salaries, rising players look to branding and merchandising as a way to take advantage of the growing global market. So says John Algie, the general manager of the Ohio Machine, “It’s a giant unifying force to have the majority of manufacturers lining up and saying we’re all going to carry the MLL banner.”
A lot of those manufacturers have focused on Paul Rabil. In 2013, Rabil, who then was splitting his time between NLL’s Philadelphia Wings and the MLL Boston Cannons but later was traded to the New York Lizards, became the sport’s very first million dollar man. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Rabil’s endorsement roster including Red Bull, New Balance and Polk Audio launched him over the million dollar ceiling for professional LAX. Rabil’s current product affiliations include Warrior Sports, TRX and GoPro.
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