The Northwestern unionization attempt was a chance for athletes to make a lasting change. When Richard Griffin decided to throw his support behind a union, things starting looking good for the players. However George Leef (2017) says in 2015 the full NLRB declined jurisdiction over the case. It said that the dispute raised “novel and unique” issues and pointed to the obvious difference between college football players and other people who clearly are university employees. This decision made it clear that there is some debate behind whether college athletes are employees but Leef (2017) says again, “If brass-knuckles union negotiators could manage to extract more for the players, it must come from somewhere else in the budget. There is a good deal of waste in many a university’s budget, but why should sports consume any “savings”? Why not cut the waste and lower the cost for all students?” Unionization would cost considerably more to colleges and this would therefore make the tuition cost increase.There are also concerns of the complications of having a labor union in states where laws differ according to Nocera and Strauss (2016). They say that the difference between private and public universities as well as title IX would all complicate the contracts, laws, and benefits of the athletes. While Unionization may seem still in the distant future, Nocera and Strauss (2016) suggest there are other ways a school could help the players without a union such as guaranteeing long term health care or cutting full contact practices.
Despite calls for change in the NCAA, there should not be any sweeping changes in the way college athletics is governed, especially when it comes to schools specifically paying players; however, college athletes should have the ability to sell their name and likeness for monetary purposes separately.
Impossible to pay everyone
The NCAA and their schools simply do not make enough money to pay every single person that plays college sports. Despite being a billion dollar organization, the NCAA still does not make enough money to fairly pay the hundreds of thousands of athletes that play college sports. Under title IX and other laws, both genders of every sport must be paid despite only men’s basketball and football gaining profit for schools. Title IX causes even more confusion and legal problems for advocates of paying athletes as the interpretations of the law are vague. Even so, if athletes were to get a salary from the universities they attend, that salary would be subject to state and federal taxes. This problem would be even greater if the schools were to offer a salary instead of a scholarship. Athletes would then have to use what they make after taxes to pay for college. If they did not do this, they would not be able to attend the university and therefore couldn’t play sports. All these hypothetical and legal issues have dragged down discussions of paying players and makes the whole process complicated.
Despite it being very difficult for the NCAA to directly pay players, there should be a forum where athletes can make money if they are able to. An athlete should be given the ability to sell his or her name or likeness for advertising or endorsement deals. This solution would not interfere with the academic side of college as the athlete is still required to go class if they want to play, and if they don’t play, then they have no chance at courting sponsorships. This solution would also be fair to any gender and any sports. A female swimmer such as Katie Ledecky would have the same opportunity to make money as a Kentucky men’s basketball player. Lastly, this would take out the NCAA from the equation, and therefore, would not have any effect on the current model of governing. The NCAA would still make its money off the athletes, while the athletes would be able to get a share of that money separately.
This solution, just like all others have, will be met with questions of why that would forever alter amateurism or how that would end the parity in college sports. But by simply allowing the players the freedom to earn money, one is not changing the way they look at schools or the NCAA. Rather they are giving athletes a little power in how they live their lives. Powerhouse programs such as Alabama football or Duke basketball would be no different from today except their athletes could enjoy the fruits of their labor and commitment to their university. Amateurism connects the fans and athletes. By legalizing outside payment the connection between school, NCAA, and athlete would still be there but the scandals and cheating wouldn’t.
The NCAA would like to make everyone believe that college sports is for amateurs, but when they use these “amateurs” to make billions every year and to pay coaches millions, this argument becomes hypocritical. By allowing players the freedom to make money on their own, the NCAA would eliminate things such as the Ed O’Bannon trial and the Adidas scandal that have plagued college sports. The NCAA is about the connection between player, fan, and sport and with one change in the system, this connection could intensify immensely.
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