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The NCAA Is Ready To Abandon Its Outdated Beliefs: College Athletes Will Now Be Able To Reap Gains On Endorsement Deals

Every year billions of dollars are generated off the backs of an unpaid labor force: college athletes. Universities take advantage of athletes’ amateur status to pocket the profits of what has turned into an exploitative world of high-revenue college sports. But legislators are forcing college sports to find fairer alternatives.

The NCAA announced yesterday that it voted in favor of letting college athletes profit from their name, image, and likeness.

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The Board of Governors of the NCAA, which oversees college sports, announced yesterday that it had voted unanimously to adjust rules that prohibited players from generating money from their own fame. The move came after lawmakers in several states began proposing or enacting legislation that gives college athletes the right to profit off their name and likeness. 

Last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act, giving college athletes the ability to earn income from endorsements and sponsorships starting in 2023. 

The legislation bypassed a National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) ban on players receiving any compensation aside from scholarships. At the time, NCAA regulations disallowed student athletes from executing any endorsement deals or accepting payment for the use of their images. The new California law, which is scheduled to go into effect in 2023, would now allow them to reap the financial rewards for their athletic abilities. It would also bar the NCAA from retaliating against the colleges and student athletes. 

In an interview with the New York Times, Newsom said, “Every single student in the university can market their name, image and likeness; they can go and get a YouTube channel and they can monetize that. The only group that can’t are athletes. Why is that?” 

While the NCAA’s reluctant bend in favor of popular opinion is understandably being characterized as a landmark victory for college athletes, the organization was vague about how it plans to implement these changes. 

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The NCAA said the updated policies would be “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.” But the organization’s idea of “collegiate model” is rooted in the fallacy that college athletes are amateurs, even if schools and coaches are being paid bountifully for these athletes’ hard work. So who knows whether yesterday’s vote is truly a turning point for the NCAA—or just an attempt to head off more far-reaching reforms.

For now, the NCAA should thank government officials for applying the necessary pressure to force college sports in a new direction. 

That more athletes would get tired of being exploited by the NCAA and its member schools was only a matter of time. If the organization doesn’t change its ways, a true collegiate pay-for-play system could emerge—and not under the NCAA’s control. Lawmakers in California and other states created a perfect opportunity for the NCAA to abandon its outdated beliefs and embrace a progressive system that will ensure its survival.

An HBO documentary, Student Athlete, highlights the travails of college athletes. 

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A former Rutgers football player is depicted working part-time jobs after graduating and sleeps in his car. ‘Student Athlete’ unveils the exploitative world of high-revenue college sports through the stories of four young men at different stages in their athletic careers.The documentary posits that those who don’t make it big after graduation would at least earn something for all of their hard work.  

Coaches make millions while players and their families live below the poverty line.

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Former coach and NCAA critic John Shoop said, “The coaches are making millions of dollars and they’re coaching players whose parents live below the poverty line.” “If you’re a reasonable person, it’s insane to build a $150 million recruiting facility, pay your head coach $10 million, the rest of your staff $20 million cumulative, but then say there’s not enough money to help the players.”

The new rules might prove especially beneficial to athletes whose careers end at college level —particularly female athletes.

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Despite the imbalances that exist in college sports, the new rules should put the NCAA in a better position to create more financial opportunities for players—especially those whose athletic careers end at the college level. The policy change could prove particularly beneficial to female athletes, who usually don’t have the same professional opportunities as men and often reach the height of their popularity in college. As the former UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi pointed out recently in The New York Times, she missed out on a lot of money because she was unable to capitalize on her viral fame.

“The NCAA is a billion-dollar industry built on the backs of college athletes,” Ohashi stated. “How different would things be for me had I been able to use my image and name my last year of school in order to promote the things I want to further my future? I want to make sure the next person doesn’t have to wonder.”

The new legislation and NCAA rule, may finally level the playing field and offer the student-athletes the opportunity to be compensated for their hard work.

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