Running head: Is it right for the NCAA to not pay their student athletes?
Is It Right For The NCAA To Not Pay Their Student Athletes?
Clement K. Amofa
Jason L. Corner
Virginia Commonwealth University.
This paper will evaluate the measures the National Collegiate Athletic Association takes in pertaining to student athletes and amateurism. The evaluation uses a mix of numbers, journals and articles from sports business and sports media to further understand what the public perception of the NCAA is This paper was written for Jason Corner’s UNIV 112 class.
For the most part America is a country that prides its self on the notion that it provides equal opportunity, and the American way is via the route of hard work. In a free market system, Americans are given the chance to move up in a free market system, where if you are able to master your craft or be in the top tier of it; you’ll be rewarded for it. For example, top businessmen rule the business world, highly skilled professors work at universities at the highest levels, top politicians sit at the highest level of government, this list goes on. In almost every career field, you are rewarded by being place at the top if your skills match that position. Not only are you rewarded but you’re also paid by that company rewarding you for your skills. The tradeoff is, for your skills and service, you are paid by the company make a profit for you. This is the reality of almost every company in the United States besides the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). In all the relationships mentioned above, the thing they have common is an employer to employee relationship. The NCAA has employees clearly as no business would really be able to function without employees to help its cause. The NCAA just doesn’t consider the athletes mentioned in their namesake as employees. These athletes are referred to as ‘amateurs’. By definition amateurs are defined as “a person who engages in a pursuit, especially a sport, on an unpaid basis.” Meaning any player who agrees to play under the NCAA has agreed to a binding contract that explicitly and implicitly states that the players cannot make any revenue from their athletics. This here is the problem and the question that arises from the public to the NCAA. The NCAA has been cited to bring in billion dollars per year through mega events such as the NCAA tournament, the college football playoff, the Frozen Four and other events. Critics of the NCAA chastise the organization for possibly exploiting young college athletes by making high income revenues off of them, but the athletes receive nothing in return in terms of direct compensation. Those who defend the NCAA, believe that the students are making fair profit as the promise of a free education, national exposure for a student’s respective sport and recent additions such as meal plans, and flex dollars for laundry are legitimate returns for student’s playing a sport. This debate has long gone on and has taken a turn in this recent decade with former players taking the NCAA to court over lost compensation for the money the students brought the conglomerate. As of 2016, a NCAA athlete is still barred from making any open profits with their amateur status attached to them until they forego their years of NCAA eligibility. But the question will continue to be asked until a major reform comes to the organization. Is there a fair trade off between the NCAA and their student athletes?
The NCAA makes billions of dollars per year and this is a fact. Particularly the source of their revenue comes from their Men’s division 1 football and basketball divisions. This is also where much of the NCAA’s rules regarding amateurism are broken. This is no coincidence. Players who feel as if they deserve benefits for making a multi-billion dollar organization their money take action and profit off of themselves. The fact of the matter is, these players are not doing anything illegal. They are operating well within the realms of the United States government and the opportunistic mentality of a capitalist government. The issue is once these student-athletes sign a national letter of intent; they are then entered into a binding contract that gives them no room to profit off of their own likeness. For instance, if University of Louisville Quarterback Lamar Jackson decided to sell a Louisville #8 jersey with no specific surname on the back of the jersey, he’d be in violation of NCAA rules in regards to amateurism and he’d also be at risk of getting his eligibility stripped. Meaning he would not be allowed to further participate in college athletics. As he would no longer be seen as an amaetuer playing on the colleigiete level. All because he decided to sell his own football jersey to make profit for himself. Examples like the one given occur so frequently the NCAA can handle the situation with ease. In 2010, the NCAA found Ohio State University guilty of NCAA amateurism infractions after it was found that Quarterback Terrelle Pryor and 3 other players had sold their game worn memorabilia in exchange for tattoos. The NCAA went on to suspend the players for the rest of the season; resulting in Pryor to forego the remainder of his NCAA eligibility and enter the NFL draft. Ohio State University were forced to vacate all their victories from that season.(Get Ref) The irony of the situation is the NCAA makes a huge a profit off of jersey sales and the use of player likeness (Schlabach 2011). ESPN College Basketball Analyst and former Duke student athlete Jay Bilas noted that if you search a specific player’s name up on the NCAA store; said player’s jersey without a surname would appear for sale. In other words, the NCAA would clearly sell players jersey’s while those players could not make any profit for those same jerseys. Jerseys in which actually belong to them. Schools generally make approximately 10 percent in royalties for sales of their jerseys. If a jersey is selling at retail for $60, the royalty comes off the gross cost, which is $30. That means schools make about $3 per jersey (Rovell 2011). The same game pants a player could lose his entire college career selling for a bag chips, schools can sell these items for thousands of dollars and make money. . Auburn sold the pants worn by Cam Newton in the title game for $1,500 (Rovell 2011); the same Cam Newton the NCAA went after for months investigating if his father profited from Cam’s likeness prior to him even releasing it to the NCAA. It’s clear that the NCAA is aware that they are able to profit from these player’s likeness. By now it’s obvious this is no secret. They’ve taken advantage of this in numerous ways.
One of the more controversial situations regarding the NCAA is about their use of player likeness in video games. The NCAA released video games in their highest revenue markets; college football and college basketball. These games would feature players of the current academic year. But the player would not have their name placed in the game, although his likeness is clearly in the game. For instance, Florida Quarterback Tim Tebow would be listed on Florida’s team in the game as ‘QB #15’. Consumers of the game would purchase this game with the clear intention Tim Tebow was in the game. This became a prominent part of the US government’s own investigation of how the NCAA operates after former UCLA basketball standout Ed O’Bannon noticed his likeness represented in the game while he received zero compensation for this. US District judges found the NCAA in violation of federal antitrust laws in connection to why athletes are not compensated for their likeness use ( Berkowitz 2014). Shortly after this decision the NCAA made an attempt to appeal this case to the US Supreme Court and had their case rejected (Russo 2016). Effectively ending any chance at a return for two of the best selling sports games. Essentially, the US government has even ruled that some of the practices the NCAA participates in are unfair and reasonable.(Bessber 2016) During the O’Bannon vs. NCAA case; the NCAA’s main argument when it came to not paying the players was to maintain amateurism but really how ethical is it to make a majority of your profits off of college students who are dedicating their lives to their sport? Following the 2014 NCAA Men’s Division 1 basketball tournament Most Outstanding Player award winner Shabazz Napier spoke about how he had gone many nights in school hungry and how he couldn’t really get anyone to purchase food for him either due to the fact it would fall under the ‘Improper benefits’ category of NCAA violations (Napier in Sherman 2014). Due to the nature of the comments coming immediately after the conclusion of the million dollar tournament, the public took exception to this. Napier’s comments took the nation by storm, prompting the NCAA to allow a rule change where Universities can provide their athletes with unlimited meal plans and snacks (Jessop 2014). The most interesting nugget about all of this is that it took until a star player highlighted his hunger in a high profile interview in order for the NCAA to make an amendment. The Most valuable player of their 800 million dollar tournament announcing he’s hungry to millions of viewers was the tipping point for the NCAA (Sherman 2014). Why is that the case? When numerous athletes over the course of years have made protests against the NCAA. Whether it’s University of Oklahoma Linebacker Brian Bosworth wearing a shirt which reads ‘National Communists Against Athletes” in 1986, or University of Wisconsin Forward Nigel Hayes satirically begging for money on national television to highlight the issue in players receiving no compensation for their play (Curtis 2016). Players for decades have made complaints regarding the NCAA’s unfair rules about amateurism and self profit; so why are any amendments being made just occurring now? Because the NCAA is starting to feel pressure from high profile players involved in high profile situations. Anytime a top draft pick in the NFL or NBA draft is involved in a case where the NCAA is set to take action; bad publicity is brought to the organization. Because obviously NCAA rules are their rules, but once the rules are brought to the attention to the public. The perception changes very quickly. This was seen in the case of Reggie Bush, where a player took said “Improper benefits” in order to assist his family. This resulted in the NCAA stripping Bush of his Heisman Trophy win for the most outstanding player of the 2005 season. The NCAA also went on to vacate the 2005 USC Trojans Football teams wins from that season. Bush remained unaffected as he was still drafted with the second pick in the following years NFL Draft. The ramifications of this investigation came as the public began to question the NCAA morally (Busby 2011). For probing a player who was just seemingly trying to help his family. In situations such as these, In a type of way. The NCAA loses credibility with the public. Attacking college athletes and barring them from playing college athletes for ensuring their family is not poor seems quite asinine.
The NCAA’s relationship with the athletes is obviously a two-way relationship. Players at the division 1 level of football and basketball receive tremendous number of media exposure from the NCAA’s contracts with major networks such as ESPN, CBS, and Fox. The Atlantic Coast Conference alone has a 15 million dollar contract with ESPN to televise games (Dosh 2012). The benefits these players have are full scholarships from major colleges. in 2016, former Duke Player Justise Winslow discussed how he would’ve failed out of Duke University had he not been able to utilize Wikipedia and basketball. The NCAA’s exposure helps player attain a free education while being able to participate in activities they’ve worked their whole lives for. The issue at hand though is it now seems like the NCAA is exploiting this and using this for their own personal gain. What’s particularly unnerving about this is that these are teenagers who are being potentially exploited. It’s nice that that these student athletes have the potential to play professional, but these numbers are very low. In 2013, the NCAA released figures showing that only 1% of all men’s college basketball athletes go on to play professionally while 2% go on to do the same in football. It’s clear that this trade off is not a fair relationship. As the NCAA makes billions off of these athletes, while the odds of these athletes making it to the next level is against their favor by 99%. As we progressively move to the future, one can hope that these college athletes take control of their own path and education. Not allowing any organization control them, and tell them what to do with their own likeness.
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