Would you tell the student employed at the local coffee shop that she does not deserve to be paid for her work because she is already attending college for free? Or perhaps the student employed by the university, like student union workers here at Ole Miss? The contribution of labor resources to the economy almost always demands compensation. The revenues that student-athletes help generate for advertisements and other parts of the marketing industry are no exception, and these individuals are entitled to receive payment.
Tuesday, the NCAA reversed a long-standing rule that prevented college athletes from receiving payment for the use of their name, image and likeness. The reversal passed among the NCAA Board of Governors unanimously, and it is a remarkable step in restoring equity in college sports and entertainment industry. While the details are not set in stone, the promise to compensate student-athletes for the exploitation of their names and faces gives me hope that these profiteering industries are pursuing fairness.
Until recently, college athletes were usually seen by the public as students first, athletes second. However, the amount of class time they miss to meet the demands of callous NCAA schedules says otherwise. Nevertheless, many people who oppose paying college athletes argue that scholarships compensate the extra work they put in.
But, let’s compare two students: Both have exceptional abilities and both receive significant scholarships. The difference is that one student earned her scholarship by taking a four-hour test, and the other earned hers by practicing a rigorous sport for hours each week. Does that seem fair? Do students with merit aid not have greater free will in their day-to-day decisions? College athletes have to endure so much, and others profit off their sacrifices. Surely, their efforts constitute at least a small form a payment.
Another irrelevant argument against paying college athletes is that the compensation of these players will turn the college sports industry into a business. It is already a business. These athletes are putting in above-and-beyond effort for their schools, and television companies, marketing agencies, coaches, administration and institutions are all profiting as a result.
There is still much to be decided on the rules for paying student-athletes. Abiding by Title IX and specifying discrepancies among compensation in Division I, II, III and NAIA schools seem to be the most prominent factors in these decisions at the moment. Will men and women receive equal pay? Will football players and track players receive the same offers? Will pay increase by division? We will soon find out. Until then, I remain hopeful for the future of college sports and entertainment, and I look forward to the positive impacts that will result by paying our student-athletes.
Lydia Johnsey is a freshman international studies major from Fayetteville, Tennessee.