The athletes provide us with entertainment, so they should get paid what they want. Now, the way they get paid is through merchandise and ticket sales, among other things. If a handful of people see them perform every year, they'll only make so much. They're popular right now, so they earn what the fans want to pay to see them. It all comes down to marketing.
sure! lets use pro baseball for example! the average time in the majors for all the ball players is about 4.5 years...much shorter than most people realize!! for decades the owners paid these guys peanuts compared to the money that was coming in. now, with the enormous contract MLB has with the networks there is a whole lot of money. who more deserves it than those who play the game. incidentally, I rarely hear much about how much actors and actresses get for even one film. or CEO's...;-)