Amateur athlete compensation
College sports teams generate about $6 billion in revenue for their universities and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) each year. Many athletic directors and coaches also earn millions of dollars in annual salaries and endorsements. However, even though most college athletes practice and train 12 months a year while attending school full time, the NCAA insists they are amateurs and ineligible to be compensated more than the scholarships they receive. Critics claim this convenient rule allows the exploitation of many young American men and women, saying other students attend universities on non-athletic scholarships and are not forced to physically work hard, risk serious injury or help make millions for their school and the NCAA. Financial stress causes many of these young athletes to drop out of school or leave early in an attempt to play in professional leagues. Most universities do not provide health insurance to scholarship athletes, and many revoke the scholarships of those who get injured or who do not perform as well as hoped.

Compensation proponents say colleges should be allowed to give stipends, jobs and health insurance to these athletes. One 2010 study found the average cost to colleges for awarding a full scholarship to an athlete was about $3,200. It also found the fair market value of a football and basketball player at a Division-1 university was more than $120,000 and $265,000 respectively. These values more than tripled for athletes playing at top sports schools. This study also found that since athletic scholarships do not cover all student costs and that many athletes do not have time for a job, at least 85% of all scholarship players live below the poverty line. Critics also say athletes do not get paid royalties from the sale of their jerseys or for digital appearances in video games. Even after athletes have left college, the NCAA retains some of these licensing rights in perpetuity. Critics claim that everyone - including the NCAA, colleges, coaches, TV networks, advertisers, apparel and video game manufacturers make money off our “amateur” athletes - except the athletes themselves. However, as a result of a recent lawsuit won by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, the NCAA and a video game maker have agreed to pay players, who competed between 2005 and 2014, $60 million from revenue generated by the use of their names and images. Still left to be decided is whether players will receive a share of the revenue from sporting event telecasts. An additional provision in this lawsuit, which provides minor compensation to current scholarship athletes, is currently under appeal by the NCAA.

A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently ruled that Northwestern University’s football players are employees and have the right to unionize, saying there is enough evidence to show these athletes are employees of the university since they receive compensation in the form of scholarships, work between 20 and 50 hours per week, and generate millions of dollars for their institutions. And although this ruling has since been overturned by the NLRB’s board, our Labor Secretary has said the question of allowing college athletes to form unions "remains open” - saying there remains a key question about how workers "have a voice in the workplace."

Pending Legislation: None

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Poll Opening Date
March 26, 2020
Poll Closing Date
April 1, 2020

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