NCAA: Student athletes head for a payday
For decades, college sports programs have hijacked their athletes’ images without paying them a dime, said Sally Jenkins in The Washington Post. Finally, California is taking steps to give athletes back their property with the Fair Pay to Play Act, a law signed by the state’s governor this week that will let college athletes profit from endorsements. The NCAA is fighting it with the usual vacuous lines about the importance of amateur sports, voiced by officials “who make $5 million a year off the sweating backs of kids.” In actuality, the law, set to take effect in 2023, just gives athletes the same rights to their names and likenesses as anyone else. The only ones who seem deaf to “the clamor for athlete justice” are the leaders of the NCAA, who “prefer to keep athletes in an artificially impoverished, rightless, separate bonded class.”
The NCAA agrees there’s an issue here, said Allysia Finley in The Wall Street Journal—that’s why it formed a working group to consider letting athletes profit from their names, images, and likenesses. But of course California doesn’t want to wait for that. Imagine “if North Carolina passed a law that said its student athletes don’t have to meet the NCAA’s academic qualifications.” Instead of a national solution that’s fair to everyone, California prefers a bill that gets tied up in court and stymies the NCAA’s own rule revisions. Over the next few years, “the NCAA amateurism model will go underwater,” said Greg Hansen in the Arizona Daily Star. No one has thought through how this plays out. “What will keep the University of Arizona—or any school—from promising a 5-star recruit that its boosters will take care of him, legally, when he arrives on campus?” And just wait until the mega-wealthy SEC football schools get involved.
The NCAA likes to grandstand about maintaining a level playing field, said Dan Wetzel in Yahoo.com, but come on: “The boosters are already buying the recruits.” And so are the schools. “The more money schools spend, the more coaches they employ, the bigger the stadiums they build, the better recruits they get.” We heard the same howls in the 1980s when the International Olympic Committee got rid of its ‘amateurism’ rules. The critics were absolutely wrong; the Olympics became more popular than ever. This will repeat with California’s law—and all the similar ones from states that will follow California’s lead. ■