Division 1 college athletics are a huge business in this country. Generating billions of dollars of revenue for colleges every year, the players still receive no monetary compensation for their efforts. Arguments have been made on either side of this debate for years, but a recent lawsuit has brought this issue to the forefront of college sports once again.
$6.4 billion is being threatened in a lawsuit against the NCAA by former UCLA basketball forward Ed O’Bannon. According to O’Bannon, the lawsuit is not intended for him to get rich, but rather about fairness. The NCAA reportedly okay-ed the use of player likeness by video game producer Electronic Arts (EA) for its collegiate video games. The company attempted to create avatars of players as close as possible to the actual players. However the players receive no piece of the revenue, and do not even have their names featured in the titles.
Should O’Bannon win the case, a major shakeup of the college sporting world would result. Paying college athletes would result in a shake up of the NCAA landscape. According to Duke University Law Professor Paul Haagen, “the richest football and basketball teams probably would form superconferences rich enough to play by the new rules.”
Those in favor of paying collegiate athletes have argued that the money being generated by the NCAA and its affiliated universities has grown far beyond the levels it previously had. Using the ‘likeness’ of players to generate revenue for the NCAA through things such as the EA video games as well as broadcasts, the colleges involved are unfairly generating income that should at least partially belong to the players.
Opponents of paying collegiate athletes argue that the free education that they are receiving, as well as the free living arrangements often given to athletes are more than enough to make up for the time they dedicate to playing their sport. Monetary compensation would take away from the collegiate atmosphere that makes an NCAA sporting event so special. If athletes are paid, then what is to keep college athletes from choosing their school for monetary reasons instead of educational ones?
Another potential consequence of forcing school’s to share their revenue with the athletes who’s play earns it is that non-profitable sports may be cut altogether. If a sport isn’t making money, and there isn’t as much money coming into the school, then it makes sense to remove the sports that are losing money from a business point of view. Such actions would remove the opportunity to play the sport they love for many students coming into the college level.
The NCAA is confident it will win its case and avoid the shakeup. Currently players are required to sign a document relinquishing rights and abilities to profit from their likeness and images, even after they graduate and are no longer subject to NCAA rules and regulations. There is debate from O’Bannon’s lawyer as to whether or not the document is actually legal and binding. The NCAA maintains that it is a valid document.
So what do you think, should collegiate athletes be paid for their efforts, or is the free education and living arrangements they often receive sufficient compensation? Vote in the poll below and share what you think in the comments.
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Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express