BSA POV: Fair Pay to Play Act

Peter Westbrook

Throughout the history of American collegiate athletics, it has not only been illegal for colleges to pay their athletes, but college athletes have also been banned from profiting in any way from their name, image or likeness. This means, for example, that a college athlete could not make money off of a signature sneaker or be paid to appear in an advertisement. However, college sports nowadays create billions in revenue annually from sales of tickets, television rights and merchandise, but none of that revenue can go to the athletes, who are essential to any of that profit. All of the money that college sports bring in goes to the universities, and oftentimes to executives, a system which some have even deemed to be reminiscent of slavery. To respond to this concern, the state of California recently signed into law the Fair Pay to Play Act, which would bar any California colleges from preventing athletes from profiting from sponsorship. However, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) is strongly of the opinion that the new bill would remove the amateur nature that is essential to college sports and has threatened to ban California colleges from the NCAA if the legislation takes effect. In addition, there is a concern that if only California, or only a few states, adopt this legislation, it would give an unfair recruitment advantage to colleges which can let their players earn money.
Despite these concerns, most of Seabury is in favor of the new bill. Junior Sophie Chindamo, for instance, voices her support for the Fair Pay to Play Act. While she does not think that colleges should be allowed to pay college athletes, she says that “because most college athletes are extremely busy with school and their sport, they don’t have time for a job, so [the privilege to profit off of name, image or likeness] would be a way to make money, and they would technically be representing their team, so for the school it’s free advertising.” Chindamo also thinks that other states should adopt similar legislation to level the field for colleges in terms of recruitment and advertising.
Eighth grader Spencer Timkar, meanwhile, is of the opinion that not only should college athletes be allowed to make money off of their name, image and likeness, but they should also be able to be paid directly by their colleges. He says on the issue: “I feel that college sports are on a professional level, almost, and so [college athletes] are putting in enough work outside of school that it would make sense for them to get paid.” Currently, the NCAA bans colleges from paying their athletes in ways apart from scholarships. This ban will persist whether or not the Fair Pay to Play Act passes. However, college sports are in many ways, as Timkar observes, at a professional level, with college football games and the annual March Madness tournament receiving more coverage than the vast majority of professional sports. As such, a strong argument can be made that they ought to be treated as such.
Throughout the nation, most of the reactions to this new law have been positive, with LeBron James, Draymond Green and Bernie Sanders being among the bill’s supporters. However, a few have taken the side of the NCAA on this debate, such as baseball and football player Tim Tebow, who has vocally stated that the bill would create a selfish culture around college sports and detract from what makes college sports great: working hard at sports not for personal gain but for the sake of one’s team and one’s university. However, most college and professional athletes did not agree with Tebow on this, nor did most California lawmakers nor the Seabury community.