Should NCCA Athletes Be Paid?

Something a little different today: for my language arts final this semester, I was assigned to write a persuasive speech. I decided to write about financial compensation for NCAA athletes. Feel free to start a conversation in the comments about what you believe in.


Slavery was one of our country’s’ worst time periods ever. It’s still crazy to think about the fact that just 150 short years ago, black men and women were discriminated against and taken advantage of due to our country’s craving for one of the most desirable things in history- money. Unfortunately, something very similar is occurring today and for that same reason. All across the United States, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, better known as the NCAA, is laboring young, promising athletes for no pay. Because they offer an education, free boarding, and transportation to their top players, their wrongdoings are seen as acceptable by the American courts. College athletes are constantly being treated unfairly by the NCAA, and deserve pay for their efforts of funding collegiate athletic programs across the country.

The NCAA makes billions of dollars every year, and zero percent of that goes back to the athletes: the primary producers of the profit. They are reviving some of the major principles of slavery, where physical labor is being used to create millions of dollars in revenue. In every other occupation across the country, employers would be sued for unpaid labor, but since they’re still students it’s ethical not to pay them. Film writer, Anna Menta of Elite Daily recently exposed the contracts signed by Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, and Sadie Sink for their roles in the hit television series, “Stranger Things.” All sixteen years old or younger, they each made “$30,000 per episode for the first and second seasons” (Menta). Unlike the NCAA, producers realize the magnitude of their young actors who are also still students for what it’s worth, so they receive a significant paycheck for their efforts. What if the studios decided as a whole that they weren’t going to pay juvenile actors anymore? They would still give them a good experience including living spaces, and schooling, and tutoring, and free food on set, but still no money (Bilas). The actors and their parents would be in outrage, and a lawsuit would certainly come about for unpaid employment. What’s the difference? What’s different about the NCAA? What’s different about slavery? Nothing. Not only is this completely unfair for the players, but the entire organization could be in a lot of trouble when our nation understands the robbery occurring; one of the richest groups on the planet isn’t paying their employees. In January 2011, the NCAA released a statement announcing “a new 14-year television, internet and wireless rights agreement with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting System” for just over “10.8 billion” (CBS Sports). 10.8 billion dollars is the amount that two television networks agreed to pay to broadcast about 14 months of college basketball over a span of just over a decade. On this contract alone, the NCAA makes over one billion dollars every year, and still can’t muster up enough money to pay their laborers. Even college coaches get paid! Louisville basketball coach, Rick Pitino agreed to sign a 10 year, 51 million dollar contract in 2015, 51 million dollars more than any college athlete will ever make in his time in college. College athletes obviously deserve to be paid.

Not only is it unfair that athletes aren’t allowed to receive compensation for their play on the field, but the NCAA restricts them from making money outside of their play as well. Colleges allow every other group on campus to advertise themselves and make money doing it; Unfortunately for athletes, they are the only ones discriminated against. The college lifestyle for many is tough. You are living by yourself for the first time in your life, and you need to learn how to balance a social, educational, healthy, and in some cases, athletic lifestyle. It’s safe to say that most students don’t have a steady flow of cash needed to achieve those goals. Wouldn’t it be nice, as a marketable college athlete to be able to bypass the financial problems? Unfortunately, not only does the NCAA not pay them for creating revenue for their schools, but they also restrict them from using their stature to earn money from outside sources. NCAA Bylaw states that an athlete will not be eligible to play if they “accept any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind.” (Marquette University Law School) Basically, companies aren’t allowed to employ, utilize, or even mention NCAA athletes in any shape or form of an advertisement. As a free, American citizen, shouldn’t they have the right to do what they want outside of the unpaid services they already provide? The NCAA doesn’t think so, as they believe amateurism keeps college sports pure. Unpopular as this law may seem, they have won countless lawsuits challenging the business. In July, 2009, “former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon filed a federal lawsuit against the NCAA over whether Division I men’s basketball and football players ought to be compensated for the commercial use of their names, images and likenesses” (McCann). The former NCAA Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player of 1995 was at a friend’s house, where he noticed something interesting about popular sports video game, NCAA Basketball 2010. He was in the game on a classic team that could still be controlled by the user. O’Bannon was irate, as he had received zero credit, compensation, or even notice that he would be in the game, despite not playing in college for over 14 years. Sounds familiar right? Going hand and hand with NCAA Bylaw, EA Sports was not required to financially reward any of the players involved in the creation of the game. Even though O’Bannon thought that, at this point, he was no longer associated with the NCAA, they still managed to find a way to scam he and his former teammates for the publicity in a video game, for no pay. Since then, the NCAA gaming series was put to an end in 2014, as there were too many conflicting problems surrounding their values and the game. Therefore, the NCAA needs to give credit where credit is due, and allow the athletes to make money from outside sources, just as any other college student would have the opportunity to do.

Some claim that a college is a place of learning and that the NCAA doesn’t have the capability of giving a significant amount of money to all division 1 athletes. Luckily, we live in a socialist society, so no one should expect all athletes to be compensated equally. That’s right; Sports that turn a profit (in most cases men’s basketball and football), should be the sole collectors of revenue. Business Insider’s sports page editor, Cork Gaines stated that the NCAA doesn’t have the capability of paying “the ladies on the Field Hockey team or the gymnastics team or the swim team.” (Gaines) Using field hockey, gymnastics, and swim as examples of non-profitable sports, those athletes most likely wouldn’t get financially rewarded. Though the opposition may believe this is unfair to the majority of college athletes, all other Americans are paid the money they deserve- no more, no less. In refute to Gaines’ statement, college basketball analyst, and former Duke basketball player, Jay Bilas argued that the colleges “wouldn’t cancel these programs if it’s in their best interest to have them.” (Peebles) In fact, nothing would change. All non-profitable sports would continue for no pay. Until colleges bring hype to unpopular sports like the University of Connecticut has with women’s basketball, these athletes won’t receive a salary. There will always be doubters. There will always be those who believe that this isn’t fair. America is run on a capitalistic work industry, meaning that your income is based on quality, popularity, and the impact of your occupation on society. If field hockey isn’t on television for the harsh reason that people won’t watch it, it is not a profitable athletic group. Consequently, the NCAA would have no problem distributing the money fairly among athletes who deserve pay for their on-field performance.

The inferior organization known as the NCAA needs to pay their players in order to retain any credibility. Every other organization in America is held up to the standard of paying their employees, no matter how big or small their impact is. The NCAA should be no different, especially when taking a look at the ridiculous amounts of money flowing through the company. As if they hadn’t done enough damage, they also restrict young athletes from taking advantage of their marketability. Any set of laws that have been challenged in court this many times obviously has some errors, but the NCAA stands by, watching young men and women labor away for the good of the business. Putting young adults in this situation is unfair, but it’s looked at as ethical because it’s all we’ve ever known. Like slavery and pretty much anything negative that had happened worldwide, change always starts with one unpopular opinion. Change starts today.

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