This article is part one of a three part series looking at collegiate athletics and higher education.
Some of you may have already heard of the Fair Pay to Play Act, a bill which was recently signed and approved by Governor Gavin Newsom. If you are a bit lost and haven’t been following the nationwide debate on whether or not collegiate athletes should be paid, Michael McCann, writer for Sports Illustrated, succinctly summarizes the Act and its implications in his article, “What’s Next After California Signs Game Changer Fair Pay to Play Act Into Law?” published on September 30th this year. He writes:
The Act is a game changer in college sports. It makes it illegal for California colleges to deny their student athletes opportunities to gain compensation for the use of their names, images and likenesses (NIL). Stated more concisely, the Act guarantees college athletes a right to profit from their identities. The Act also authorizes college athletes to hire agents and other representatives to assist them in negotiating and securing commercial opportunities.McCann, Michael. “Breaking Down the Fallout of the Fair Pay to Play Act.” Sports Illustrated, 30 Sept. 2019, www.si.com/college/2019/09/30/fair-pay-to-play-act-law-ncaa-california-pac-12.
Though it won’t go into effect until 2023, the signing of the bill has already generated substantial debate, both at the local level and nationwide. A recent poll showed the over 75% of college basketball coaches supported their athletes’ rights to capitalize on NIL; however, others, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), have been adamantly against the passing of the bill.
The President of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, penned a now infamous letter expressing his organization’s strong opposition, writing: “If the bill becomes law […] it would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics and, because it gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage, would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions.” In other words, should California colleges allow their athletes to profit from NIL under the newly proposed law, the NCAA may use its substantial influence to exclude those athletes from larger competitions, such as the Rose Bowl, in the future.
Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post responds to this letter from Emmert in an article titled: “NCAA President Mark Emmert Is the Lord of a Feudal State That Knows Its Time Is Over.” Jenkins does not shy away from harsh criticism of Emmert and the NCAA, even going so far as to call Emmert, “High Guardian of the Pure Bastion” and assert that his letter to lawmakers contained, “more than a smack of extortion.” She summarizes her op-ed piece with these strongly worded predictions, “Presumably, Emmert sent such a letter because the NCAA leadership is scared. A law such as this could very well be how it all ends, how the NCAA’s feudal castle is finally dismantled, rotting old beam by beam.” One can almost hear the cries for change: “Down with the old regime! In with the new — the disruptors, the innovators, the fair-play advocates!”
But is there validity in the opposing side’s argument? Does President Emmert have a point? A few months following the Jenkins article, fellow Washington Post writers, Roshaun Colvin and Joshua Jansa, brought up the following suppositions to complicate the issue:
What’s to stop Nike co-founder and Oregon booster Phil Knight from using his company’s resources to sign top recruits for his alma mater? Or to prevent bidding wars between boosters for Alabama and Clemson seeking to curry favor with football recruits by paying exorbitant amounts for their autographs?Roshaun Colvin, Joshua Jansa. “Analysis | California’s ‘Fair Pay to Play’ Law for College Athletes Has Other States Racing to Join up. Here’s Why.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Nov. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/11/18/californias-fair-pay-play-law-college-athletes-has-other-states-racing-join-up-heres-why/.
Their points are valid as well, and, as with any sudden shift in power-dynamics, this turning of the tides presents new problems and new concerns. One might wonder, if student-athletes are able to capitalize off of their NIL, will they maintain an incentive to generate income through a paid internship or job during their undergraduate education? And for the majority of student-athletes — those who do not receive a formal contract to continue playing sports professionally following graduation — what valuable skills and experiences will this limit?
Here at Menlo College, the student aspect of being a student-athlete is supported at every level of administration and education. In addition to relevant coursework and a focus on bringing outside resources in, Menlo requires all juniors majoring in Business Management to complete a full-time, focus-specific internship the summer before senior year. Juggling these many factors is an ongoing process — one that may be further complicated by the new law.
So, which side do you fall on in this great, ongoing debate? Should the ability to capitalize on one’s own image be allowed? In the age of YouTube stars and social media influencers, some of whom are far younger than college students (e.g. Ryan Kaji, age 8), where do you draw the line?
Categories: New Trends