The NCAA And the Violation of Basic Worker’s Rights

In 1953 the American population was introduced to a new civil right previously unrecognized by the law. Judge Jerome Frank had conceived the “right of publicity” for the first time during the landmark decision Haelan Laboratories, Inc v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. Citizens. Companies could no longer use the use of a person’s name, portrait, or any picture of a living person without prior consent for advertising purposes. The right of publicity is a civil right endowed upon every citizen of this nation, but there are still hundreds of thousands of people that are being exploited of their right each and every year. There are currently 420,000 student-athletes in college. Each school that has a Division 1 athletic program falls under the umbrella organization, the National College Athletic Association (NCAA). The NCAA’s total revenue for the 2014-2015 academic year was $10.6 billion. The total income for the worker’s responsible for this revenue was exactly $0. Coaches, athletic directors, and people who are direct employees of the NCAA get paid for their work, but the student-athletes do not get a dime. Student-athletes do not receive any income from the schools they attend, and they are barred from getting income from outside parties because they are student-athletes, which is both logically and factually illogical.

If a person works, he deserves to be paid. If he is not paid, than either he is an interchangeable intern or the company is operating under illegal practices. Student-athletes are not paid, and they are far from interchangeable. The entire reason why the NCAA has a revenue of $10.6 billion is because of the labor of these athletes. But the student athletes are not paid a dime for their services. One of the most popular reasons the NCAA gives as to why they do not pay athletes is because they claim that they are financially unable to do so. Out of the 1,100 schools that make up the NCAA only 20 make more money than they spend. It appears that the idea of colleges paying athletes is ludicrous when only 20 schools even make a profit from sports, but this statistic is exactly the type of wool that the NCAA needs pull over people’s eyes in order to justify their immoral and illegal practices.

The claim that only 20 schools make a profit from sports is highly misleading because each school does accounting for their own financial records differently than others. This allows colleges to manipulate their records to give the illusion they make less money than they do in reality. Tennessee University reported the $6.84 million dollars they reinvested into the school from the money they made from athletics as a loss. This way they could report they only had a profit of $1 million, thus reducing the value of its athletic program. Manipulating accounting books is a widespread practice amongst Division 1 colleges in order to make themselves seem less profitable in order to make the excuse they could not afford to pay student-athletes. Another reason why universities do not have more revenue is because Division 1 athletic schools are nonprofit programs. Being nonprofit programs schools are incentivized to spend as much of their profits as possible. That is why colleges are constantly spending money on renovations, because they have to find ways to spend the money. Instead of spending money on new coaches or buildings, colleges could give the money to the people responsible for giving them the money in the first place.

When trying to justify their exploitation of teenagers the NCAA will state that they do not have to pay college-athletes because they are already paid. College-athletes are given scholarships that allow them to go to school for free or at a titanic discount. The NCAA will argue that the scholarship money that athletes receive is a form of payment, so further monetary compensations are unnecessary. This argument is grounded upon two false dogmas. The first, is the belief that student-athletes go to school for free. While there are athletes who receive only partial scholarships there is a universal misconception that athletes who receive “full rides’ get to attend school for free. A full scholarship, or full ride, does not equate to the entire cost of college being paid for. Student-athletes will still have to pay for laptops, books, meal plans, or any other miscellaneous expenses that the college they are attending might have. One study found that, “The range of out of pocket expenses for a “full” scholarship student athlete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) is $952/year to $6,127/year depending on the college.” Not only do student-athletes have to pay for college, but the price is substantial when one considers where these athletes come from. When looking at the background of college football players one study found that, “The average FBS “full” scholarship athlete earns less than the federal poverty line by $1874 on campus and $1794 off campus.” One to six thousand dollars may not appear to be a substantial amount when it comes to paying for college, but for people who are already struggling to put food on the table the difference between free and almost free is the world.
The second false dogma that the NCAA has universally programmed into the minds of millions is that giving student-athletes scholarships is equal to paying them. The NCAA will tell anyone that asks that they in fact already pay college-athletes when they take money off of their tuition cost. This idea that scholarship money equates to being paid is illogical to the point of humor. One must only consider this example to see the holes in the NCAA’s argument. If one’s boss was to approach them and say that at the end of the day they will receive a payment of $10 thousand, and at the end of the day that worker never got his or her check, it would be reasonable to assume that that worker would become upset. If the worker went to his or her boss and asked where was the check, and the boss’s response was to say, “well I was going to go and cause $10 thousand worth of damage to your car, but I did not, so that was your $10 thousand payment”, would the worker accept that reply? Would any reasonable person equate not having to pay $10 thousand with being paid $10 thousand? The answer to both these questions is no. Not having to pay for something is not the equivalent of getting paid. Any reasonable person understand this, and it is about time the NCAA does to.
Even if the NCAA did offer scholarships that covered the full price of tuition, that would still not be proper compensation. The money that the NCAA puts into for scholarships is not equivalent to the money generated by student-athletes. The majority of student-athletes are worth more than the scholarship money they receive. One study founded that, “Successively relating player performance to winning, and winning to gate receipts, they find that the playing contributions of about 60 percent of the players generate revenues exceeding the value of their grants-in-aid.” The scholarship money that athletes is an inadequate amount for over half of student-athletes. It is especially inadequate for basketball and football players, where the market value for each is $375,000 and $178,000 respectively. Under current NCAA guidelines the majority of student-athletes have and will continue to be undercompensated for their service to their schools. This is why it is vital for student-athletes to be paid for their work, because it is unacceptable for basic worker’s rights to be disregarded on such a widespread systematic manner.

If a person work, not only do they deserve to be paid, but there should be a national outcry if they are not. For decades student-athletes have been some of the most exploited workers in the nation. They are systematically denied the access to avenues of income, and they live in a system that wants them to be as poor as possible for as long as possible. The NCAA is a $10.6 billion dollar industry. No institute worth even a fraction of that should be allowed to get away with not paying the worker’s responsible for their revenue. Scholarship money is not only at an inadequate amount, but it cannot be the only avenue for compensation. The average college athlete is worth more than the scholarship they receive, and because of this they need to be paid to make up the difference between value and actual compensation. The student-athletes cannot be denied outside lines of revenue any longer. They need to be paid by any and all companies who desire to use their likeness or name. Student-athletes have produced billions of dollars of revenue. This revenue has opened countless opportunities and benefits for athletes and non-athletes alike. The need to be treated with basic rights is long overdue.