NATIVIDAD: Fair pay to play is the only way
If you go to YouTube and search “Ryan’s ToysReview” you’ll find the page of an 8-year-old boy who reportedly raked in more than $20 million last year alone by posting videos of himself talking about toys. Another YouTuber, Kim Thai, in eight months amassed enough of a following to quit her job and make a six-figure salary from videos of her eating ungodly amounts of food on camera.
People get paid for the weirdest things.
So forgive me for applauding the California State Assembly for voting in favor of State Bill 206 the Fair Pay to Play Act, a statewide policy that will allow college athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness starting Jan. 1, 2023. The bi-partisan bill unanimously passed on a 72-0 vote last week and overrides National Collegiate Athletic Association amateurism regulations.
Not surprisingly, the NCAA disapproves of the bill and penned a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom warning that colleges in the state would be unable to compete in the NCAA, also calling the bill “unconstitutional.” Proponents of the policy, though, point out how NCAA amateur regulations prevent student-athletes from doing things like earn money from giving swim lessons, hosting a volleyball camp or promote an autobiographical book.
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Professional athletes like Lebron James have expressed support for the bill calling it a “game changer,” while other athletes like former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow have railed against the law as an attack on the purity of amateurism. Other critics of the bill claim it will eliminate the fan appeal, and also give specific schools advantages over others due to the money and attention certain players will get from their endorsements.
Reality check: NCAA sports already has these problems they claim will arise when this law is enacted. Why do you think we see the same teams in the Rose Bowl and Final Four every year?
Certain legacy schools already have an unfair advantage over smaller market schools because of the disproportion in financial backing. By giving players the opportunity to get paid through their own brand endorsements it allows the money that is already being spent on NCAA competitions to change hands to the athletes that drive popularity and fanbase, and maybe that’s the real issue the NCAA has with Fair Play to Play.
The NCAA rakes in more than $1 billion every year with $800 million coming from television rights agreements. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, 231 NCAA Division I schools generated more than $9 billion in sports revenue in 2015. That’s a more than $10 billion industry.
So what happens when players are given a chance to get a piece of the pie? Maybe the people that currently rake in the dough don’t get as much as they used to.
The hungry get fed. Binge eaters beware.
While the NCAA does fork out more than $2.9 billion in athletic scholarships every year, that is divided out to only 150,000 students, averaging less than $20,000 each. For the most part these scholarships can be revoked due to a myriad of issues including an athlete getting injured.
For elite players, this is basically some kind of at-will unpaid internship they are serving prior to declaring for the draft. With billions of dollars in the mix, these student-athletes should get the compensation they deserve in attracting that revenue. Students attending a school on some kind of academic scholarship are not given the same kind of financial restrictions.
Do business majors get ridiculed for making money on stock market investments? Did Mark Zuckerburg get expelled for making money from ads on Facebook prior to leaving Harvard and moving his company to Palo Alto? No.
In protesting this bill, the NCAA also seems to be neglecting the experience of players who come from disenfranchised backgrounds. Students staking their entire financial future on the ability to make money for themselves and their families by turning pro.
While the policy is currently confined to California, other states are following suit as lawmakers in South Carolina, Maryland, Colorado, Washington and New York are discussing similar policies.
If the NCAA doesn’t give laws like this a chance they may start to miss out on generational talents, and the schools that they play for. But if accepted, players looking to gain financially from their stature as a collegiate player may think twice before going pro early, due to the simple fact that they would be able to obtain lucrative avenues of revenue as college athletes. Maybe Mike Krzyzewski gets a better chance at luring a player like Lebron James, or extending the stay of a Zion Williamson.
For players, that’s when toy talk becomes money talk.
Ivan Natividad is a columnist who contributes to The Union regularly. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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