May 2023

Capitalism for NCAA, Socialism for Athletes: Unveiling the NCAA's Double Standard

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While the NCAA and its affiliated conferences continue to rake in billions of dollars in revenue, the true beneficiaries of college sports—the student-athletes—are left with meager compensation. The annual findings from USA Today reveal staggering revenues generated by the Power Five conferences, exposing the glaring disparity between the financial gains of the NCAA and the limited economic opportunities for athletes. This article explores the flawed arguments against paying athletes, questions where the money goes, and highlights the urgent need for fair compensation in college sports.

The combined revenues of the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC, and Pac-12 have witnessed consistent growth, averaging an annual increase of 8.4 percent from 2017 to 2019. The projected numbers for fiscal 2022 would have surpassed $3.7 billion if not for the impact of the global pandemic. Astonishingly, the NCAA and its member schools lost $800 million due to the cancellation of the 2020 tournament alone. However, when the tournament returned in 2021, the NCAA made a whopping $1.15 billion in revenue, surpassing pre-pandemic figures.

It is hypocritical for the NCAA to argue against paying athletes while not adhering to this principle when it comes to coaches and staff members. The disparity in compensation is evident, proving that assessing talent and compensating individuals based on their value is a familiar concept in every other industry. The current system denies student-athletes, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, the opportunity to accumulate generational wealth while the NCAA and its stakeholders reap the benefits.

Not only are athletes denied their fair share of revenue, but the NCAA fails to reinvest in the communities and families of the very individuals responsible for generating the wealth. The NCAA and its affiliates are missing out on an opportunity to uplift these communities by not providing job opportunities or resources that could positively impact the lives of athletes and their families.

Read full study: “How the NCAA’s Empire Robs Predominantly Black Athletes of Generational Wealth”

While the introduction of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rights has garnered attention, it is crucial to analyze its true impact. Despite the perception that NIL provides an avenue for athletes to generate income, the reality is far from equitable. Only a select few, the top 5% of athletes, receive substantial NIL opportunities, with the average deal being significantly less than $1000. This situation perpetuates the wealth gap, with the rich getting richer while the majority of athletes struggle to make ends meet.

Scholarships alone are not commensurate with the value athletes bring to their respective sports programs. Athletes dedicate countless hours to training, competing, and promoting their institutions. Just as workers in other industries receive bonuses and incentives based on performance, athletes should be entitled to additional compensation beyond the value of their scholarships. The demands placed on student-athletes, which often surpass the value of their education, warrant fair remuneration.

The illusion that "they are treated well and have nice things" are a common defense to abuse and exploitation. Who's stuffing their pockets? Why are coaches being paid millions of dollars by teams they aren't even coaching? Why is the entire athletic department getting paid down to the interns yet the star Heisman winning athlete who's literally paying their salaries can't get a cut?

There is an urgent need for a paradigm shift in college sports. Athletes should no longer be denied the opportunity to capitalize on their talents and generate financial prosperity.

The NCAA and its stakeholders must acknowledge the anti-American nature of denying athletes their fair share and embrace a system that respects capitalism while empowering athletes to enjoy the same economic opportunities that they help create. It is time to dismantle the flawed arguments against athlete compensation and apply the same capitalistic system that we require everywhere else.

Issa Hall, Esq

Issa has founded multiple ventures, is an author, and founding partner of Hall & Dixon law firm, with over a decade of experience in tech and law.

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