The State of California recently passed a bill to be approved or vetoed by the Governor, that will potentially allow student athletes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to make money of their own likeness—this includes jersey sales, endorsements and the likes.
The United States has a unique path for most American born players getting to the point of playing professional sports. To draw a discrepancy, I will use the journey of two athletes on a similar timeline, but on different paths, in different countries—Cameron Reddish, the recently drafted forward for the Atlanta Hawks and Callum Hudson Odoi, the young winger for Chelsea F.C.
In the United states, a player (basketball in this instance) goes to high school, playing high school basketball, gets into college, hopefully in the top division and plays college basketball. Professional team scouts observe them at the College level with a keen eye, in preparation for the next NBA draft. Throughout this period, these players are referred to as “Student Athletes.” College sports in the United States make billions in revenue due to the wide viewership of the games and competitions. Primarily the NCAA, the schools and business people, who have stake in some way, are the beneficiaries of these profits.
Eventually, at some point in the college career, the athlete declares to be eligible to be considered as a prospect in the NBA draft. And hopefully, the athlete is taken with one of the 60 draft picks.
The Premier league, and many other leagues world-wide make the use of football (soccer) academies, where players are signed even as children, play as teens and eventually—even if it isn’t with the academy’s professional team—break into a first team somewhere. These prospects are being paid.
The NCAA however, does not allow student athletes to make any money through wages, endorsements, the sales of their own jerseys or business partnerships with any companies. They are not being paid anything of the billions that they make the NCAA in television rights, partnerships and other forms of revenue. They also make nothing of the millions of dollars in profit being made for the schools that they play for in the form of ticket sales, merchandise sales and the likes. The argument that has been propagated for decades is that financially compensating student athletes will take away from the competitiveness of the college games, but I believe that is a narrative that is in place to continue to exploit the dreams of young players who have dreams of getting to the professional level of playing sports. A paid student athlete is an empowered student athlete. And an empowered student athlete is one that has some form of control in their lives.
For instance, most players in top divisions are given scholarships to play sports for the schools they commit to. But we have seen situations where many players who get injured and are unable to play, get their scholarships taken away from them. So now, they may never get to the professional level and they are left without the opportunity to attain a degree. They also have no profits from the time they played and made money for the schools. There is no world where that seems right.
So going back to this bill in the state of California and why it is a big deal: California is one of the largest markets in the United States, and if they approve this bill, other schools and other states might be forced to join them. The NCAA cannot afford to exclude the schools in California from participating in the intercollegiate tournaments, so this might be the starting point in giving some level of power or control to the student athletes. I believe it is only fair, because they are the ones who put their bodies on the line, and they have the most to lose, not the executives who make millions off them every year. Because of that, there are many people in positions of power lobbying for the bill to be vetoed. California Governor, Gavin Newsom has 30 days to sign or veto the bill.
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