Pa state reps push the 'Fair Pay to Play Act'

Category:  Opinions
Friday, October 11th, 2019 at 11:16 AM

Whether college athletes should get paid is a constant debate. These student athletes, in especially profitable sports like football and basketball, are put under the microscope by their coaches, peers and the entire world through big TV contracts. It’s comparable in that sense to the professional leagues, so what’s holding it back?

On the other side of the argument, some pose the question: what is the true role of the student athlete? Is it excelling in the classroom or giving it all in their respective sport?

But let’s back up. The NCAA has a total of three athletics divisions: Division I (Edinboro wrestling is in here), Division II (the remainder of Edinboro sports) and Division III. Now take into account just how many schools there are across the U.S. (roughly 5,000) and know that sports programs are abundant throughout all college levels.

In short, the world of collegiate sports has evolved into a swimming pool of revenue for universities and corporations. Both make money from their student athletes giving it their all on nearly every day of the week.

According to USA Today from 2018, “[March Madness] will generate an audience approaching 100 million people in 180 countries watching on television and 700,000 to 800,000 attending live games. The NCAA will rake in about $900 million from TV commercials, ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and other sources.”

The issue has reached its boiling point in recent months as professional athletes like LeBron James (forward for the Los Angeles Lakers) and Richard Sherman (cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers) have thrown their opinions into the mix, with both expressing a need to change the system on how we value college athletes. James even had California Gov. Gavin Newsom on his “The Shop” TV program to sign that state’s bill —Senate Bill 206, the Fair Pay to Play Act — into law. It’s the first of its kind in the U.S. to allow college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. 

James had voiced his concerns on Twitter, calling for action against the NCAA’s strict bylaws: “College athletes can responsibly get paid for what they do and the billions they create.”

Sherman, backing James, spoke with the San Jose Mercury News, pushing for a necessary change to the system as a whole: “It’s (paying college athletes) going to cripple the NCAA in a way where they start to bend, make it a more symbolic relationship between players and the NCAA.” He continued, “Or it’s going to destroy them in general and start a whole new way of college athletes in general, and I can respect that too.”

California was that first state to take action in late Sept., ensuring athletes within that state are awarded compensation for their athletic achievements. Players will have the opportunity for the first time in NCAA history to profit off their likeness.

This will also give student athletes the ability to sign endorsement deals and get sponsorships, similar to professional athletes.

Other states are trying to create similar laws, with minor tweaks, to ensure that their athletes have the same luxury as California. Just last Tuesday, two Pennsylvania state representatives, Ed Gainey and Dan Miller, encouraged the state to replicate the same bill. Gainey and Miller are pushing for a law similar to ensure that athletes stay at programs like Pittsburgh University, Pennsylvania State College, and Temple University, rather than lose athletes to new opportunities across the country.

Gainey believes the bill has revolutionized the possibilities for student athletes traveling away from home. “California has changed the game, and I don’t think you want all top-flight athletes going to California,” he said.“To me, you would want to be competitive.”

The bill will have to go through much before its approval, and local lawmakers are pushing to sign and enact it by 2023. If Pennsylvania were to pass this bill, it could create a domino effect for the rest of the country. Other states and schools would be racing to be the next in line to ensure that their athletes stay local and receive the same benefits as the next.

Not allowing these men and women to make some profit off their likeness for their hard work and sacrifices they have made is a disservice. The NCAA is a multi-billion dollar organization that profits off its athletes each and every year.

We must also keep in the back of our minds that these athletes are students first. While making money in school is beneficial for most, especially since athletes may not be able to hold jobs due to the strenuous schedule, a balance of education and athletic competition is key.

Not only must we be wary of athletics over education, but lawmakers must have a strong ideology of equality. If these athletes will be making money from endorsements, then all participants should be on the same playing grounds. No one athlete should be capable of making more money than the next; there must be no discrimination against gender, race, sexuality or even gender identity.

Whether you’re at a Division III school or Division I, man or woman, the point of this law is to create exposure and provide relief for the athletes that sacrifice so much for our entertainment.

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