On The Bench: Don’t pay student athletes, pay for likeness

Sourced:D. McBee

A controversial bill in the California legislature is set to reach the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom in the coming weeks, bringing to the surface a long disputed debate about whether student athletes should be paid. The legislation, termed the Fair Pay To Play Act, was passed in the California Assembly by a vote of 72-0. A version of the bill passed the California Senate by a similarly decisive vote in May and is set to take effect in January of 2023 if signed by the governor. Contrary to rumors, the bill does not allow schools to pay athletes directly, but does allow schools in California from revoking scholarships or scholarship eligibility from student athletes who opt to profit off their own name, image and likeness. The bill has been backed by various high profile individuals including Senator Bernie Sanders and Lebron James,who called the bill a “game changer.” Supporters of the bill claim that the time commitment of being a student-athlete can be equated to holding a full-time job and bringing in billions of dollars to the schools through nationally televised championships and games. The argument is that the athletes as well as the coaches, athletic directors and administrators should benefit. They also argue that they are a part of the college or university’s advertising team and play a large role in drawing in new students. However, despite support for the bill, a 2013 survey conducted by American sports broadcaster John Dennis found that 69% of the public opposed paying student-athletes. Many argue that among the cons to paying student athletes, compensating students would fundamentally alter the academic atmosphere of colleges and universities. For one thing, if payments were involved, athletes would automatically be drawn to commit to colleges or universities who offer the highest payments. Furthermore, payments could decrease the stability of college sports teams if students consistently have the incentive to transfer to another school with an even higher offer. Additionally, rather than promote academics alongside sports, bringing compensation into the picture would shift students’ focus away from academics, which are reinforced by scholarships that prioritize education. While scholarships ensure that the “reward” for being a college athlete is funneled directly into the school, paying individual athletes opens the possibility that students can use funds for uses not aligned or even contradictory to their academic goals. Essentially, it could change their motives as students. They are still in college—which is a privilege in itself—while pursuing their dreams of playing a sport. While the bill to allow students to profit off advertisements and endorsements is a good way to recognize students’ efforts, I think the direct payment of student athletes is too contradictory to academic ideals for it to be seriously considered.

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