The untouchable twosome who usually dominate the top of
Tiger is still No. 1 with a total of $99.7 million (down 22 percent from
More telling is the fact that their lesser earnings also reflect the loss of major auto-manufacturer endorsement deals in the past few years (Tiger ended his nine-year relationship with Buick by "mutual consent," while Phil has been without an auto sponsor since Ford killed his deal in 2006). And as far as the endorsement game is concerned, that's a bellwether for the entire economy: The hard-hit automotive industry and financial sector have been pulling back in a big way in the endorsement game, according to
Across the board, corporate America is cutting back on devoting hundreds of millions of dollars toward hiring athletes to peddle their products. According to
Lesser endorsement earnings for Woods and Mickelson explain most of the reason the average earnings of the sportsmen on the Fortunate 50 fell -- down $1.5 million per athlete to $23.6 million -- for the first time in the six years we've compiled the list.
However, the economy has yet to hit athletes at their day jobs. As usual, NBA players make up the biggest proportion of athletes on the list, and a record nine of them earned in excess of $20 million in salary this past season. Some are the names you'd expect:
In fact, of the 22 hoopsters on the list, 12 either played out the final years of their contracts this past season or are entering their walk years in 2009-10. Some will be rewarded handsomely, like
Of the 14 baseball players on the list, five are Yankees. The Bronx Bombers' three premier offseason signings make their debuts on the 50: No. 14
The rest of the list is made up of nine NFL players, two NASCAR drivers and a third golfer (endorsement machine
The retirement of money machine
In all, it seems that even in tough economic times, being at the top of your game is recession-proof.