August 2023

College Sports Revenue Redistribution Should Be Treated Just Like Affirmative Action

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Isn't redistributing the revenue earned by a few to a pool of many unfair and much worse than what affirmative action gets blamed for?

The debate surrounding affirmative action and the redistribution of revenue in college sports are two distinct issues that are very similar in application. On the surface, revenue distribution isn't based on race but just like with affirmative action opponents, the argument that benefits aren't going to the most qualified individuals is even stronger here.

For those who dislike affirmative action due to "resources being stripped from the qualified and gifted to the unqualified," the redistributive nature of revenue in college sports raises important questions about fairness, earned opportunities, and why this unfair practice gets a pass.

related: The Privilege of Playing the Game on Easy Mode, and what the Affirmative Action Ruling gets Wrong

Revenue generating sports are used to subsidize non-revenue generating sports, and this dependency is also an excuse used by schools as to why they cannot afford to pay athletes. They claim that there is no budget for it, and to create one would destroy the sports that rely on the revenue being generated.

Where this excuse fails is that schools seem to have no problems budgeting when it comes to paying coaches, building stadiums, and recruiting players to sustain their most profitable programs.

The NCAA has masterfully placed revenue generating athletes on an island, gaslighting them into believing that their claim to pay would be harmful to the livelihoods of their classmates.

Non-revenue generating athletes are caught in a catch-22 they cannot claim revenue they aren't generating, and revenue generating athletes are easily labeled as the villains since their pay would be snatching food from starving mouths.

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

Even worse, non-revenue generating athletes are likely receiving fair value in their scholarships so they aren't going to protest against unfair treatment nor can claim entitlement to sharing revenue they aren't generating as it is.

This wealth redistribution, is essentially stealing from those who are most qualified and distributing it to those who are not. Isn't this the same argument used against affirmative action?

Dissecting Demographics and Financial Disparities

Recent research reveals glaring demographic disparities between players in revenue-generating sports and those in non-revenue sports within Power Five athletic programs.

Notably, black players comprise nearly half of the football and basketball teams with much higher numbers for the revenue dominant Power 5 teams, but only make up 11 percent of athletes in money-losing sports.

This disparity, while reflecting broader societal inequalities, also raises concerns about equitable opportunities for athletes based on the sports they play and quite frankly, whether the unfairness of this should also follow the precedent used and offered by the Supreme Court when striking down race based affirmative action.

related: If Government Spending in Ukraine Upsets You, so Should the NCAA's Misallocation of Athlete Pay

Further underscoring these disparities is the discrepancy in the median family income of athletes' high schools. Revenue-sport athletes hail from high schools with a median family income of $58,400, while their counterparts in non-revenue sports come from schools with a median family income of $80,000. This financial disparity illuminates an intriguing parallel to the affirmative action debate—both contexts involve considerations of socioeconomic background and the implications for fair opportunities. National Bureau of Economic Research

The Role of Meritocracy and Equity

Opponents of affirmative action often emphasize the importance of meritocracy, advocating for opportunities based on merit and earned achievements. Similarly, those critical of revenue redistribution in college sports question the fairness of revenue-generating sports, such as football and basketball, subsidizing non-revenue sports and indirectly funding scholarships and opportunities for athletes who may not have earned them solely through athletic prowess.

related: Profit Over Fairness: The NCAA's Utilization of the Shirky Principle to Exploit Athletes

While the goals of affirmative action and revenue redistribution differ, the underlying themes of equity and earned opportunities warrant consideration. The distribution of revenue necessitates a nuanced approach that seeks a balance between supporting athletes' endeavors and addressing disparities. This approach prompts a reflection on whether the current system inadvertently perpetuates inequalities or genuinely facilitates equitable access to athletic opportunities.

While affirmative action and revenue redistribution in college sports are distinct topics, their interconnectedness lies in the pursuit of fairness, earned opportunities, and equitable representation.

The NCAA and its member schools could pay athletes if forced to, but have executed a masterful plan that makes nearly impossible to accomplish short of a complete holdout by the revenue generating sports.

see: The Potential of Unionizing for NCAA and UFC Fighters - Updated

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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