Fair Pay to Play for College Athletes

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation this past week that will allow collegiate athletes to be paid for the use of their name, likeness and image starting in 2023. Other states are now considering whether they should follow suit or not.

The current rules by the NCAA prohibits student athletes from being paid by the university or by other means. For example, you can’t sell t-shirts that you make with your name on it…. Or you can’t sell your autograph if someone wanted to buy it… Or you can’t endorse a local business and get paid to be a sponsor.  By the way, these are all things a regular college student can do and would even be applauded for doing.

The new law will make it illegal for California universities to revoke an athlete’s scholarship or eligibility for making money in those ways.

It is about freaking time.

The entire system is really a load of, well, you know the phrase. The NCAA is a nonprofit organization that regulates student athletes at participating schools. Guess how much revenue that the NCAA brought in during the 2016/17 school year? Just a shade over $1 billion… Not too bad for unpaid labor.

Where does that revenue go exactly? Mostly to the schools. The athletes do see some benefit in that the revenue helps pay for facilities and other amenities. However, they don’t directly see a dime of any of that revenue.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that scholarships go a long way in helping students pay for college, or attend it entirely for free. There are millions of high-schoolers out there who would love the opportunity to attend college and a scholarship would mean the world to them.

Also, I’m not sure that having players make a salary makes sense either. That is getting into very tricky factors when you think about which teams bring in the most revenue (football and men’s basketball), and how to decide what to pay these players. That’s an entirely different discussion to have.

However, not letting athletes to be able to make money off of their own merits is simply asinine for many reasons. Why should the NCAA control the likeness of a person? You should not lose your rights as an individual because you play a sport. That makes simply no sense! Also, there are many college athletes who did not come from great financial situations and could really use an income.

Let’s think about a local hypothetical. Tyler Johnson is a Minnesota native who is a star receiver for the Gophers. Many residents (and potential consumers) would recognize him and have a very favorable opinion of him. If a local car dealership wanted someone to endorse their business, Tyler might be a great fit. He would be recognized, he is famous in his own right locally and this interaction would benefit the business, the consumer and Tyler.

Why can’t Tyler make that deal and bring in an income to help him pay for rent, groceries or save up for after college? How is that any different than any job any college student has? What power does the NCAA have to tell Tyler he can’t have this type of job while playing for the Gophers? I know that Gophers football fans would think more highly of a dealership that Tyler Johnson was a part of.

Perhaps one of the most influential voices in sports, LeBron James weighed in on the bill and it was spot on. I will quote him below.

Lebron offered the following statement: “If I would have went off to Ohio State… pretty much that ‘23’ jersey would have got sold all over the place without my name on the back, but everyone would have known the likeness. My body would have been on the NCAA basketball game in 2004. The Schottenstein Center would have been sold out every single night if I was there”

He continued: “Me and my mom, we didn’t have anything. We wouldn’t have been able to benefit at all from it. And the university would’ve been able to capitalize on everything.”

He is so right. Ohio State would have profited like crazy on his presence on the team. Ticket prices would soar, there would be thousands of 23 jerseys that represented him in the stands and he would not see a penny from it. Why should LeBron not be able to make some money off the school selling his jersey?

For most student athletes, college will be the peak of their ability to be recognized and make money off of who they are. Why allow the NCAA and the schools be the only ones to profit from these athletes? Why not let these student athletes sell t-shirts, sign autographs or endorse a business or product? You can side with the NCAA and big business if you want, but I’m siding with the college kid just trying to make a few extra bucks.


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