California passes bill to pay student athletes

Opinion: Athletes ought to be compensated for the use of their likenesses

Photo courtsey of wikipedia

By Will Pembroke | Guest Writer

College athletes took another step toward the monetization of their abilities on the field last week.

The California State Senate passed a new version of the “Fair Pay, Fair Play” bill that, if signed, would allow student-athletes to profit off their names and likenesses. The bill directly pushes back on the NCAA’s mandate that student-athletes be amateurs.

Under the provisions of the bill, student-athletes could be paid to do things like sign autographs, participate in advertisements and sell their name rights to video game makers.

Proponents of the bill argue that allowing NCAA athletes to profit off their names and likenesses is a logical step. However, not everyone agrees.

The NCAA is a firm believer in the amateur status of its athletes — defined as playing a sport non-professionally and therefore not getting paid for it.

That single term has allowed the NCAA to monopolize college sports, taking the profits for itself.

Many in the sports community, however, have criticized the NCAA’s ability to hide behind amateurism in the modern sports landscape.

For example, take a look at the two biggest revenue-driving collegiate sports today, Division I basketball and football. These sports are broadcasted nationally through lucrative television contracts. Coaches are paid in deals often ranging in the millions of dollars. The NCAA men’s college basketball tournament drove in north of $750 million alone last year.

Student-athletes do not see any of that profit reflected in their bank accounts. That money ultimately earned by their talent and ability in athletic competition ends up in the hands of higher-ups, nowhere near the field or arena where the money was earned.

The main argument made by the NCAA outside of amateurism is that collegiate athletes are awarded scholarships in return for their athletic competition. While this statement is true at face value, it takes a more in-depth understanding to know what this means for athletes.

Focusing on Division I football and basketball once again, people on college campuses know why these athletes are where they are. They are on campus for their talent and ability, reflected in the amount of time spent at mandatory team activities.

Student-athletes have significantly less time and energy in their days to focus on rigorous, time-consuming academic schedules. As a result, athletes are pushed to take more relaxed classes with non-specific majors, that is, if they even stay the full amount of time required to complete a degree.

All in all, the collegiate athletic systems are set up for the NCAA to profit from athletes’ talent and performances. Coaches, NCAA executives and schools end up rewarded the most for possessing talented players who choose to attend their institution.

Circling back to the California law seeking to get passed, there are potential implications for both sides of the argument.

While California schools can indeed allow their athletes to profit off their name and likenesses, it may not be advantages for their doing so.

The NCAA has already threatened to remove bowl and tournament eligibility for schools that choose to pay players.  Not being able to participate in these events would lead to a sizeable financial loss for athletic programs.

This would also be a turnoff for athletes potentially attending these schools who want to showcase their talents on the biggest stage.

While this bill is a small step to correct a longstanding issue, it is more than has been done in recent memory.