The NCAA announced on Tuesday they plan to allow student athletes to receive payment from schools that are profiting from merchandise and promotions using the players’ names and likenesses. Students have previously been banned from making any profit from their college athletic careers.
Before now, college athletics programs have been able to exploit their players to make millions of dollars in profit from selling jerseys and posters of student athletes who never see a check from the profits. Some athletes are even recreated in video games that sell for high prices and do not have to return any of the revenue to the players they are profiting from.
These students work insane hours for the universities between daily practice and the travel time. As a result, their academics often suffer in the shadow of their athletics. They receive scholarships for their ability because it is useful for schools to have successful sports teams, but that does not mean they should not also get paid for their image being publicly sold by the university.
Some high schoolers that take sponsorships, such as Olympic athletes, are unable to pursue college athletics because of the restrictions currently in place. Others skip to professional sports in order to get paid sooner.
Allowing students to get paid could encourage more people to take the time to get an education because they do not have to choose between the two. While it is true that sports may impede on the time someone can spend on academics, the experience and skills gained through a postsecondary education are invaluable, including for busy student athletes.
Some schools have evaded restrictions by the NCAA by paying their athletes in illegal, under-the-table dealings. Hopefully, a legal process to pay student athletes for their efforts will reduce these instances and level the playing field so that players will not feel obligated to join a team that will give them money over one that won’t.
This choice by the NCAA is a step in the right direction, but it does not mean students should be able to get endorsements or brand deals during their time as athletes, which would unfairly favor more popular athletes to receive more money. The only institution they should be compensated by is their university that sells expensive tickets and merchandise only to pocket all of the revenue.
As the NCAA ventures into the logistics of this decision, they must protect students from further exploitation by signing contracts with people using their likeness that continue to undermine the importance of the effort of the athlete to make a profit. They did not make the merchandise, but they created the demand for it and should be credited accordingly.
School athletics have a long way to go in their athletes’ well-being and emphasis on athletics over academics, but the NCAA’s decision to allow compensation may be the beginning of a journey that pushes for athletics programs that prioritize their athletes.