Paydays for the world’s top-earning athletes dropped for the first time in four years, according to the 2020 Forbes ranking as the coronavirus wreaked havoc on sports and canceled or postponed many marquee events for the first time since World War II.
The 100 highest-paid athletes earned a combined $3.6 billion this year, which is 9% below 2019 and the first decline since 2016. Roger Federer takes the top spot for the first time, with $106 million of pre-tax earnings, edging past Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who have swapped the No. 1 spot in three of the past four years. The two soccer icons earned a combined $209 million during the past 12 months, a $28 million drop from 2019, due to salary reductions at many European soccer clubs when league play was halted in March.
Federer, who has the best endorsement portfolio in sports, is just the ninth athlete to have landed in the top spot since 1990, the first year Forbes began tracking athletes’ earnings.