The world of professional lacrosse is still a tiny little piece of the sports market, but there continue to be signs that it is growing.
The latest sign is the announcement that Paul Rabil, who currently plays for the Philadelphia Wings of the NLL and who spends his summers with the Boston Cannons of the MLL, has become lacrosse's very first million dollar man.
By leveraging his relationships with friends and former Johns Hopkins University classmates, Rabil has built an endorsement empire that includes Red Bull, New Balance and Polk Audio, among others. The result is that this 27-year-old perennial all-star has broken the seven-figure income barrier.
In a sport where professional players typically need to hold down a full-time job in addition to their meagre lacrosse earnings, this is a big step.
Players in the National Lacrosse League earn $9,200 in their rookie season, which is then negotiable up to as much as $27,000 a year after that ($34,000 for a Franchise Player). If you play field lacrosse, Major League Lacrosse players can bring home between $10,000 and $25,000.
So, if you're one of those rare star athletes who can excel in both brands of the sport, like Rabil, you could be looking at as much as $69,000 a year by playing indoor and outdoor. A modest, but livable, wage to be sure, but hardly the kind of money typically associated with professional sports.
Through shrewd business maneuvering, Rabil has taken things to the next level.
When you add all his endorsements together, Rabil is looking at over a million dollars a year on top of that modest salary, which means there are real opportunities for an enterprising lacrosse player to find alternate sources of revenue above and beyond putting in time at a real job.
And in a sport where participation is growing by leaps and bounds, the potential for bringing in more and better endorsement deals is virtually boundless.
While Rabil is currently the face of the game, it shouldn't be long before players like John Grant Jr., Garrett Billings, Mark Matthews and Brendan Mundorf start to follow in his footsteps and bring in the big bucks. And as television contracts slowly grow along with participation, the sport could turn into truly big business.
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