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Their View: College athletes should be compensated for the use of their names and images

Their View: College athletes should be compensated for the use of their names and images

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The NCAA has indicated it will move forward with rule changes allowing NIL compensation.

Student athletes deserve the opportunity to earn money from their efforts, and the NCAA may finally agree to a rule change allowing it. In the meantime, state legislatures across the nation are moving the needle on the issue by passing their own laws regarding student athlete compensation. States that don’t jump on the bandwagon could find that their colleges are at a major disadvantage when it comes to recruiting.

Ohio’s legislature became the latest to consider a bill that would allow college athletes to earn money through endorsements and sponsorship deals based on their names, images and likenesses — the so-called NIL package that the NCAA is considering and could adopt soon.

The legislation is similar to laws that have been passed in 16 states that are home to some major college sports powers such as Michigan, Nebraska and Arizona. In five states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico — the laws for athlete compensation take effect July 1.

It’s no wonder that lawmakers in favor of the Ohio bill hope to have it enacted by the same date. No one wants to fall behind in the college recruiting wars.

But any move to allow athletes to be paid for their own images and likenesses goes beyond recruiting benefits. It’s simply the right thing to do.

Student athletes should be able to reap some financial reward from their athletic abilities. Schools in the major athletic conferences make big money off the athletic prowess of their student athletes. Some coaches make millions each year in salary and endorsements, sometimes climbing to the top of the highest-paid state employee rankings. True, many student athletes receive scholarships, and there is significant financial value attached to those scholarships, but the athletes should have the opportunity to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness.

Some schools make millions each year in sales of merchandise licensed by the school. But a student athlete is not permitted to make anything from the sale of a jersey with his or her name and number on it. College athletics, from ticket sales to television rights to merchandising, has become a billion-dollar industry, and the athletes behind it receive nothing.

In fact, the NCAA for decades has gone to absurd lengths to protect the fantasy that college players are amateurs, fining coaches, suspending players and programs. The idea of students competing for the joy of competition and representing their school has long passed as more and more money pours into college sports. Even the Olympics, once also an enforcer of amateurs-only in competition, has changed with the times and professional athletes dominate the games in sports such as basketball and hockey. Athletes in other Olympic sports — gymnastics, swimming and skiing, for instance — make money through endorsement deals to support their training.

The NCAA has indicated it will move forward with rule changes allowing NIL compensation, mainly as an effort to stave off any move to actually require that colleges and universities make direct payments to athletes. The governing body of college athletics may finally be seeing the writing on the wall concerning student athlete compensation.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments brought by athletes who say the NCAA violates federal antitrust laws by denying athletes the right to compensation. And in April, U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, a former Ohio State football player, reintroduced a bipartisan bill that would give college athletes the right to earn money through endorsements and sponsorship deals.

Whether it’s through state legislation, federal law or rules changes by the NCAA, the bottom line is that student athletes have been denied a right to compensation that they deserve and that must change now.

©2021 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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