For as long as the NCAA has existed as a respected organization, producing billions in revenue, athletes have been denied the money that they deserve for their efforts. This issue has always been a problem for athletes, who despite having talent, do not want to waste their time competing in college with no pay whatsoever. Such a case is true with Lebron James, who is known to have not gone to college in order to begin playing in the NBA immediately. He did not want to be in a place where he was not being paid by the team, and was also restrained from benefiting from his name, image, and likeness or NIL. The NCAA restricts athletes from benefitting commercially from their identities, as the most they can get for themselves is a school scholarship.
This issue has been debated for a long time, but there has been a recent argument building up from the disagreement between the NCAA’s beliefs and common social beliefs. This dissension inflicted its first effect on Monday, September 30th when California Senator Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act, into law. This was a crucial event because this issue had always been in the talks, but California becomes the leader amongst states advocating for this issue by being the first to make a law on the matter. Scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2023, this Act prohibits colleges from denying their athletes the opportunity to hire agents or gain compensation for the use of their NIL.
However, this new law is firmly opposed by the NCAA because of its violation of their rules, which puts these colleges at risk of dismissal from the NCAA. If these California colleges are permitted to remain in the NCAA in 2023, when the law is put into effect, then the NCAA will have yet another problem.
If California colleges are the only ones in the United States that permit athletes to benefit from their identity, this, consequently, creates an unfair advantage in recruiting. All athletes would want to play college sports in California for the benefits they can have, including endorsement deals and sponsorships. States realized the effect this would have, and ever since many other states have passed their own variations of California’s Fair Pay to Play Act, in order to match California’s potential recruiting advantages. The NCAA cannot dismiss half of its participating colleges for violating its rules, so they had to be flexible when it came to writing a general law to be followed by all states.
They tackled this problem with what appears to be a universal solution on October 29, 2019. The NCAA stated, “In the Association’s continuing efforts to support college athletes, the NCAA’s top governing board voted unanimously to permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.” Here, it can be seen that the NCAA is making changes in order to allow student-athletes to benefit financially from their NIL. Board members asked that each of the three divisions make their own rules no later than January, 2021. Even though the NCAA has not officially signed any legal document assuring that they will follow through with their claim, it is definitely a good sign that they are willing to alter their rules in accordance to people’s beliefs. Upon hearing of this change, Lebron James tweeted, “It’s a beautiful day for all college athletes going forward from this day on!” and “Not a victory but a start!” It is indeed a start to a potential victory, but it is still unknown how much freedom athletes will get because the association has not disclosed the actual rules regarding athletic publicity rights; the NCAA policy needs to transition from an idea to practice in order to guarantee a victory.
This rule change may mean the world to many if it is finalized as a legal document. Not just could the elite athletes of Division I schools pocket tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, but smaller athletes could make local deals for a smaller amount of money; all types of athletes, whether known locally or nationally, would be able to benefit from such a rule change. The lives of many student-athletes would be much easier to manage financially if they were to receive money from endorsements. Even though many athletes are given scholarships, it does not cover all of their expenses such as food, clothing, and transportation; the capital they earn from sponsorships or other deals would be of great use to them.
Even though the major elite athletes would much rather play for the million-dollar contracts they receive from organizations such as the NBA or NFL, many less-recognized athletes would have an incentive to keep playing college sports if they were given some sort of reward for it. Most student-athletes do not often make the big leagues, and so having the ability to benefit from their NIL would motivate them to keep pursuing their passion in sports. The Scheck Hillel Varsity Football coach, Michael Farley, claims that “I think it is a great idea for them to be able to capitalize on their abilities on the field. Universities make a lot of money for what these athletes dedicate to, and they should be able to capitalize off their efforts as well. However, I do feel that this will not be an incentive for the elite athletes to stay in college, as the money they can make off endorsements does not compare to the million-dollar contracts they may receive in the NBA or NFL. It is definitely a step in the right direction though, as I do believe that athletes should have control over their name and image.” Here, Michael Farley shows to agree with the general public opinion on the matter, which is that college-athletes should be able to benefit from their NIL. Yes, not many potential first-round draft picks would risk an injury for money made from endorsements rather than their large profession contracts, but many small athletes would be able to benefit in smaller proportions.
Many non-recognized athletes could benefit from their name with local endorsements. They may not be known on the national level, but those who surround them in their community view them highly. Therefore, small local contracts could be made for the locally recognized stars. A Scheck Hillel Sophomore and member of Miami Beach Rowing Club, Samuel Merenfeld says that “I see the ability for athletes to benefit from their name as a good thing, as there are always many students who because are dedicated to a sport, lack the time and energy to work for money. This small push could keep them on the right track, and cause them to pursue their athletic goals without worrying about other things.” Merenfeld makes a clear stance on the side of the college athlete by claiming that they should all be authorized to use their NIL to benefit financially. The revenue they make from such endorsements may be meager, but it can aid most athletes in paying for life’s necessities without having to work somewhere else, and thus permit them to fully dedicate themselves to their sport.
It is yet to be known what resolve the NCAA will choose in regards to this issue, but one is imminent; the recent dissension as to the fate of college athletes’ NIL privileges will, hopefully soon, lead to a solution that satisfies all.