I never expected publishing a Christian daily-devotional book for athletes could land me in trouble with the National Collegiate Athletics Association.
As a college athlete, the NCAA barred me from publishing my book, even if I donated all of the profits, as it would be a way for me to use my “name, image, and likeness,” and build my brand.
But I still don’t think athletes should be paid. As athletes, we’re given an opportunity to play the sports we love while receiving scholarships and degrees, and for that I think we should be grateful — even if it means I have to wait two more years to publish my book.
On Oct. 1, California passed its Fair Pay to Play Act, which stops four-year institutions and athletic associations from preventing their current or prospective student-athletes from receiving compensation for the use of their name, image, and likeness. But this law goes too far and threatens the idea of amateur athletics.
While athletes may feel their schools take advantage of and profit from their athletic performances, this new legislation has the potential to cripple college athletics and it showcases the entitled attitudes of some elite athletes. Millions of people go into debt for an education and millions of kids pay to play the sports they love, yet some of the top college athletes aren’t grateful enough to play the sport while getting a free degree.
The Center for American Progress released a report in June 2019 saying that one-sixth of America’s adult population makes up for $1.5 trillion in federal student loans, not including the estimated $119 billion in private loans. The fact that some of these athletes even get into top-rated schools is an honor, let alone the full-ride scholarship preventing them from becoming a part of that statistic.
Too many of the NCAA’s top athletes are privileged but fail to see it. Maybe it’s because their sport consumes most of their time and they feel they should be compensated for that. Understandable. But on average, student-athletes in California receive $28,000 a year in tuition scholarships (not including any room and board), $1,000 per month for extra spending money, and have access to multi-million dollar facilities for practice and games.
Sounds like a decent compensation.
Even California Governor Gavin Newsom understands the power of an athletic scholarship, according to an interview on the Dan Patrick Show.
“I got into college on a partial baseball scholarship. I wouldn’t have gotten into a four-year institution, I would’ve ended up at a junior college,” Newsom said. “But my life’s path changed because of a partial baseball scholarship at Santa Clara.”
He understands the impact an athletic scholarship can have, and his story has nothing to do with injustice.
The world of college athletics inspires younger kids and is seen as a dream — a dream current NCAA athletes take for granted.
Doug Gottlieb from Fox Sports tweeted, “Wondering why no one seems to be paying all these California G‑League stars for their ‘Name and Likeness’. It proves there is no real value in a college kid’s name and likeness. The power is in the brand of the school. Ratings for TV, values of schools to networks depend on the brand of the school. Not the athlete.”
G‑League athletes who play for this minor league basketball organization are getting paid, but no one knows them. Paying college athletes would essentially create another minor league organization, but people would know them because of the power of the schools’ brands.
College athletes receive recognition because of the schools they represent. Zion Williamson wasn’t an amazing and well-known athlete before heading to play for the winningest coach in men’s college basketball history. Duke provided Williamson with an audience and an opportunity.
Playing at the collegiate level gives athletes a platform from which they can build their careers. They aren’t paid in cash for those four years of work, but at least they’re building a brand and making connections without having to go into debt.
Not only will the NCAA suffer, but so will California. Athletes already complain they don’t get a good education because they’re too bogged down by athletic demands. How will they find time to film commercials and fulfill endorsement contracts? They’re already shirking their academic responsibility. With agents roaming around and the temptation of money and fame, their athletic responsibilities are bound to suffer next.
The Fair Pay to Play Act brings with it a host of other issues. If the NCAA stands by its original stance on amateurism, it won’t accept California schools as members. California schools will recruit the nation’s best players by flaunting compensation without restriction and the rest of college athletics will be weakened.
And let’s not forget that colleges receive tax exemptions as nonprofit organizations. If athletes start receiving paychecks, the state of California is going to reap the tax dollars.
Perhaps the NCAA isn’t the only organization benefiting from the hard work of college athletes.
Calli Townsend is a junior studying sports management and is an assistant sports editor for The Collegian.