The debate about whether to pay college athletes has taken a new turn with California’s legislature approving a bill that would allow players in that state to profit from use of their names, images and likenesses.
The move is not so-called “pay for play” per se, but it gives college athletes the opportunity to be compensated when their names, images and likenesses are used by others, such as video game manufacturers, for profit.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is opposed to California’s action. NCAA President Mark Emmert went so far this summer as to insinuate that California institutions would be excluded from championship games if the bill was approved.
The traditional argument supported by the NCAA is that allowing college athletes to earn money from endorsement deals or marketing promotions undermines the concept of collegiate sports being at the amateur level. The NCAA position is that players should focus on their education first and not participate in a pay-for-play system.
“The magnitude of support from the California Legislature ... reflects the growing understanding that the college sports system is broken in its present form,” Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sports management at Drexel University, told insidehighered.com. “The NCAA had decade after decade of opportunity to fashion a business model, a college sports business model, that is appropriate for the 21st century and at every turn, they’ve failed to do so.”
In the same report by insidehighered.com, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean and professor of law at the UC Berkeley School of Law, said the NCAA will likely have to allow the California bill to take effect without consequences, which would open the possibility for other states to pass similar legislation.
South Carolina and California are miles apart in so many ways other than just geography. But two Palmetto State lawmakers say they will try to pass similar legislation here.
Democratic S.C. Sen. Marlon Kimpson and Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, told The State newspaper they plan to file a bill similar to California’s when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.
The bill would expand on the California one. Not only would it allow student-athletes to earn compensation for autographs and sponsorships, but it would let the state’s biggest colleges give $5,000 per year stipends to athletes in profitable sports such as football and basketball.
“The legislation passed in California is a sign of the times,” Kimpson said. “The NCAA is not an amateur sports league. This is a multibillion dollar sports empire where everyone involved makes money except the players on the field who earn it.”
A 247sports.com report indicates that among those not in favor are South Carolina Athletic Director Ray Tanner and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. There are many others who would join them in opposing the NCAA creating a model allowing athletes in all states to be compensated.
Yet such a plan may be the only way to resolve the pay-for-play issue if one state allows payment and its neighboring state does not. Whether to pay collegiate players, particularly those in major sports, is not an issue that is going away. Ultimately there will be a move toward compensation beyond what is presently allowed, but it should not come in piecemeal fashion. A national solution for national sports will be necessary.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!