The Supreme Court has recently begun hearing a case that has reignited a debate around whether college athletes should be paid or not. Under current laws, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), which is the institution that organizes college athletics, is legally able to “cap” the financial benefits that student-athletes receive.
What this means in practice is that student-athletes are limited to being compensated with a scholarship and maybe a small stipend they can use for living expenses while the universities and NCAA make hundreds of millions of dollars each year off their backs through tickets and sponsorships.
When confronted with this reality, the NCAA has repeatedly argued that the model is justified as college sports are simply student activities. They argue that students are rewarded with scholarships and certain education-related expenses which support their studies — all of which can disappear the moment of an injury, leaving the student with enormous debt.
While they pretend they are a “non-profit” organization focused on supporting education, the truth is that the NCAA and the powerful athletic programs they collaborate with are massive commercial enterprises with business models based on the exploitation of athletes.
While the players’ talent is what sells tickets and advertisements, players are left with little while NCAA administrators and athletic directors make millions!
Despite players driving the financial success of the NCAA, which for example reported revenues of roughly $1 billion during the 2016-2017 school year, college athletes aren’t allowed to sign endorsement deals or profit of their likeness in any way.
On top of this economic exploitation, the sexism of the NCAA was on full display as videos went viral comparing the facilities that women’s basketball players had in comparison to men’s basketball players during the recent NCAA March Madness National College Basketball Tournament. It has since come out that the NCAA’s budget for the men’s tournament was double that of the women’s tournament.
What’s normal for college sports simply mirrors the system of capitalism that exploits workers and reinforces inequality between genders. If colleges and athletic companies are allowed to make millions of dollars off student athletes, then clearly the athletes should be paid for their work.