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You see mascots at most sporting events entertaining the crowds, especially the younger audience members. Often the sillier they act, the more laughs they get in return. So how much money do mascots really make? You’ll be shocked.

History of mascots

The word mascot can be traced back to the 1880s, where it originated from the French term ‘mascotte,’ which means lucky charm. Mascots, as we know them today in their furry creature form, first appeared during the 1960s.

Mr. Met is reported to be the first mascot in Major League Baseball that first appeared on the cover of game programs in 1963. He came to life when the Mets moved to Shea Stadium in 1964. 

After Mr. Met’s introduction, others soon followed. The 1970s brought us the San Diego Chicken and the Phillie Phanatic, two mascots that have stood the test of time and are recognized throughout the sports world. 

The San Diego Chicken mascot
The San Diego Chicken | Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Over the years, the mascots have crossed over into the other major sports, including the NBA, NFL, and NHL. With this increased exposure and popularity has come increased responsibilities. Instead of the standard slapstick comedy routines with pratfalls, mascots now perform rehearsed dance routines, interact with audience members, run races, shoot t-shirt cannons, and participate in a variety of other in-game entertainment.

The dangers of entertaining

Oftentimes, with increased duties, along with a desire to impress, elements of danger come into the mix. There are the more obvious examples like bouncing off a mini-trampoline while dressed in a large stuffed animal costume. And then there are the less obvious, like maneuvering through an arena trying to avoid its beer-soaked steps.

In either case, the job can be hazardous and result in injuries, sometimes serious. Some mascot injuries have included:

  • Raptor, the Toronto mascot, ruptured his Achilles tendon performing a stunt. 
  • Muddy the Mud Hen, the Toledo minor-league mascot, suffered a concussion and sprained arm after miscalculating its dance moves atop the dugout and falling seven feet.
  • The Mariner Moose, Seattle’s mascot, sustained a compound ankle fracture when the roller blades snagged the turf at the Kingdome and the mascot collided with the outfield wall. 

In other words, being a mascot, while it may look fun, comes with its hazards and unfortunately, mascots sometimes pay a heavy price. Because of that performance price, some organizations pay a pretty penny to entertain the masses.

Making money for being funny

Let’s start with the lower end. 

Traditionally, minor league baseball mascots receive the lowest rate of pay, and it varies wildly. It’s not uncommon for mascots to earn $50 a game. 

When you move up to the Major Leagues, the pay increases as do the duties involved. Performing at games is just one part of the job. Mascots also earn their wage by promoting the team brand, producing sponsorships, making public appearances, and attending community events.

The Oriole Bird for the Baltimore Orioles earns $350 an hour for appearances. The original mascot, Mr. Met, and the Phillie Phanatic both make $600 an hour.

Denver's mascot Rocky
Denver’s Rocky | John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Other mascots don’t receive hourly wages but salaries. In this category, the Red Sox’s Wally the Green Monster pulls down $70,000 annually. It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s not when compared with some of the NBA mascots.

As mentioned, NBA mascots perform more dangerous stunts, many of which involve the basket and flying through the air. Those higher risks command a higher price tag.

Benny Da Bull of the Chicago Bulls earns $200,000 a year for his act. And that’s not even the highest. The title of highest-paid mascot in sports belongs to the Denver Nuggets’ Rocky, who earns a whopping $625,000 per year.

The numbers are staggering and it provides you with a whole different perspective on sports entertainment. Next time you’re enjoying that beer, hot dog, or plate full of nachos at the game, you now know you’re not only paying for the highly-skilled athletes, but you’re also paying for that furry creature that just made googly eyes at the kid in front of you and brushed up against you with a big chunk of cheese on its tail.