Fair playing field

Fair playing field

Yesterday, Gavin Newsom, the Californian Govern, passed Senate Bill 206 aka the Fair Pay to Play Act into law. The Bill will finally allow American university (college) sports players to profit from their name, image and likeness. Due to come into effect in 2023, should it survive, it has infuriated the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the association responsible for supporting college athletes. Though registered as a nonprofit organisation the NCAA reported a revenue of over $1.1 billion in 2017 and that has annoyed the public. 

Most of the press has fallen on the side of the college athletes calling the system currently in place “bankrupt”. Newsom is certain that other states will follow suite and begin to ease the grip which they have on students’ earning potential. However, polls conducted by Morning Consult into this very subject, appear to show a different story. Though participants in the survey agree that students should profit from partnership with brands: 47% to 35%; many believe that the scholarship given adequately count for the payment for the services which the athletes perform. When asked if they believed college athletes should be paid most said “No”: 45% (32% — Yes and 22% — unsure). Why? Well, it’s difficult to say. But, 48% ‘Strongly Agree’ or ‘Somewhat Agree’ that the NCAA’s purpose is to prepare students for professional sports careers. Unfortunately, this transition from student to professional athlete is a rather leaky bucket. 

According to the USNews the average student-athlete scholarship is roughly $18,000; this appears a lot until you realise that the average annual university fees are nearly double that figure at $33,215 according to the TimesHigherEduction. These ‘students’ are also put under significant pressure balancing academia (estimated at 30hours) and sports (20-hours) eclipsing the average working week of Americans which stands at 35-hours. So pervasive is the sports aspect within the lives of these students that many identify firstly as ‘athletes’, then as ‘students’. Unfortunately, this is reality will be short-lived for many. Few will be drafted by an NBA team (1.2%) and using the NCAA’s statistics which excludes those turing pro, transfer or drop out there is a dismal graduation rate of 59%. And, this is before we discuss the gruelling injuries and long 15-hour day. 

The entire system is of course built on giving people, those that might otherwise not afford to be able to attend tertiary education an ‘in’ and a step along the path to social mobility. Yet, we should not use this concept as a byword for exploitation. This move to give more power to student-athletes for greater financial and career freedom is a welcome one, but there still needs to be more changes in the system.


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