Being an elite athlete no longer means you are just a sports icon. While sports figures make a name for themselves on the field, their reach goes even further once they get online. When athletes spread their wings on social media, a crowd follows.
Sports are a massive industry in North America. Athletes and fans are part of what is now a more than $60 billion market that is expected to reach $73.6 billion in the next two years. Media exposure is at the forefront of this growth.
With a society that treasures sports and social media increasing in its reach, it was only a matter of time before sports figures became some of the most influential people in America — even the world.
But influence is used in different ways. Some athletes choose to post advertisements to cash in on big pay days, while others use the platform to engage in social and political conversations. Some speak directly to their fans using the platform, and even on occasion insult them. One athlete even uses his influence to get the attention of an estranged wife.
NBA players make up a large majority of the list, most likely because the game has more of a global reach than other American sports. One of the only sports on the list played in the Olympics, some former basketball stars sign contracts overseas, and international players come to play in the NBA, all of which helps build global interest. Other sport figures on this list come from a variety of fields, including football, boxing, tennis, wrestling, golf, and skateboarding.
While most athletes or former athletes on this list are immensely famous now, several have established themselves in the past and are only just beginning to reap the benefits of their celebrity status on platforms like Twitter and Instagram now.
To determine who are the most influential and powerful American athletes, 24/7 Wall St. measured the active and retired American athletes with the most current combined followers on Twitter and Instagram.
Did any of your favorite athletes make the list?