In college and progressive working culture, we are told to never work for free, but unpaid internships have long been viewed as an essential bridge between the scholastic and professional worlds. These internships are considered by some, such as myself, to provide an unjust advantage to those who can afford to work without a paycheck. The majority of people are likely not in a position to choose a resume boost over an income, which rigs the game for all players.
Even as a college student, if I were to excel in a field such as writing, I could profit from my skill set despite my lack of professionalism. However, if I were a student athlete living within the confines of the NCAA and its amateurism rules, I could be the champion of my sport bringing in thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars to my collegiate institution and not be permitted to receive a legal dime.
A student athlete’s inability to profit from their name, image and likeness is the premier flaw of the billion dollar per year ‘non-profit’ called the NCAA. But, to the institution’s credit, the NCAA’s highest-ranking governing body recently announced that it supports a proposal set to allow collegiate athletes to profit from their own enterprise, also known as name, image and likeness.
This new proposal would permit athletes to sign endorsement deals and get paid from other work. The only caveat is that players cannot receive payments from their respective universities, which is why alternative payments from outside sources would be allowed. In an advertisement, for instance, a player is allowed to mention their school, but university logos or other branding would not be permitted if these rule changes are implemented.
Now, as great as it is that the NCAA is finally modernizing its tactics and adapting to the wants and needs of everyone besides the NCAA, the athletes, politicians and advocates who have fought for this change deserve all the credit. The state of California likely motivated the NCAA’s proposed changes by passing its Fair Pay to Play Act in September. Having to oversee potentially 50 different state laws and regulations is more challenging than creating new provisions that can be applied to every NCAA school in America. I do not trust the NCAA to properly create such a blanket set of regulations, but it is certainly a step in the right direction, albeit one that is long overdue.
There will undoubtedly be a rocky transition from the NCAA’s current phase to the next. But these changes are inevitable, and a period of uncertainty and making the necessary adjustments are part of the process. Every new venture has looming obstacles, but the light at the end of the tunnel for student athletes and college athletics is overwhelmingly worth it. These changes will enhance the lives of young athletes and their families. Additionally, it will preserve the quality of college sports by creating another incentive for its most valuable members.