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Pay for college athletes gaining momentum

Anyone who attends a Division 1 football game or the March Madness basketball tournament sees the incredible amount of money involved. The fact is that college sports are now big business. However, while professional athletes are paid millions of dollars to compete and many sign lucrative endorsement deals, the money in college sports bypasses the “scholar/athlete” and goes to schools, athletic departments, coaches, clothing companies, media companies and other businesses in the college sports food chain. 

There is now a report on Capitol Hill authored by Sen. Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut that calls for college athletes to be fairly compensated for their labor. This came to light as the FBI investigated an NCAA rule violation where money from Adidas went to top college basketball players, using assistant coaches and others as intermediaries.

There has also been a bill drafted by Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina to amend the federal tax code to allow college athletes to profit from their name, likeness, image, and potential work for advertisements, appearances, and even video games. There is also state-level legislation for North Carolina and California, which the NCAA is fighting.

Change in rules for changing times

College athletes in large programs typically get scholarships, room and board and small cost of living stipends (since 2015). Considering the amount of money and media exposure now involved with the games, particularly football and basketball, there is growing skepticism about the fairness of the NCAA rules that prevent athletes from capitalizing on their success.

According to Senator Murphy, the amount of money generated by college programs has jumped from $4 billion in 2003 to $14 billion in 2018. In the biggest and most successful conferences (Atlantic Coast, Southeastern, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12), only about 12% of the money directly benefits the students. Conversely, coaches’ salaries eat up about 16% of the pie with the top ones earning between $3.2 million to $5.2 million per year.

A civil rights issue

According to the senator, another reason for changing the law is based on civil rights:

“More than half of the athletes playing big-time football and basketball are African-American,” Sen. Murphy told the Los Angeles Times. “And almost all of the adults getting rich off their exploits are white. And civil rights is not just about race. You have workers here being denied an adequate return on their labor.”

Other bills on the way

State and federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are currently trying to address this issue. While nothing is solidified, it is an issue that will not go away any time soon. Athletes with questions about fair compensation may want to consult an attorney with experience handling legal matters for professional athletes. These legal professionals understand the laws and how the business of sports works, which will be helpful as these bills potentially become laws.

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