2019.03.29.EMG.SEN.UO.WBB.NCAA.SWEET 16-25.jpg

The NCAA logo. Oregon Ducks women's basketball takes on South Dakota State at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament on March 29, 2019. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

For most working students, their job tends to be the obstacle preventing them from keeping up with their courseload. But what if struggling at work not only threatened their job, but their ability to enroll in school? 

The time commitments of collegiate athletics are comparable to those of a full-time job, but student athletes can’t receive compensation from their athletic ventures due to the NCAA’s amateurism rules. Student athletes are worth upwards of $100,000 to their schools, according to a 2011 study from the National College Players Association, but live in near poverty while in college.

Recently, the California State Assembly unanimously passed the Fair Pay to Play Act, or SB 206, which would prevent universities from taking student athletes’ scholarships if they profit from their own likeness, name or image. By eliminating amateurism, players could receive endorsement money, giving them the ability to profit from their athletic achievements and personal brand.

Although this potential law could create problems, athletes in other states deserve the same opportunities as those in California. I strongly believe that similar legislation needs to be implemented in every state as soon as possible because every student-athlete is entitled to profit from their own likeness.

While neither the NCAA nor universities would be paying players, SB 206 is a leap forward for college athletics. Given that only a small percentage of student athletes go pro, college athletes would be able to make money. Athletes could avoid potentially making nothing for four years of collegiate play, even if they miss out on the pros.

The issue has plagued the NCAA for decades. Colleges with top-tier basketball or football programs rake in tens of millions of dollars thanks to the success of the student athletes, but the athletes don’t share the profits. Media conglomerates get exclusive rights to certain athletic events or entire sports, allowing companies to make billions from student athletes’ labor.

The primary opponent of SB 206 is none other than the NCAA, which relies on the concept of amateurism. The NCAA recently claimed that SB 206 is “unconstitutional” because California’s 58 NCAA schools will be swimming in uncharted waters compared with the rest of the NCAA’s institutions. 

Other critics of SB 206, such as former college football star Tim Tebow, slammed the potential law because it harms the culture of college sports. According to Tebow, since players aren’t receiving checks, their motivations for competing go beyond money. But Tebow possesses privilege that most student athletes don’t have. Every athlete doesn’t get an allowance from their parents, and most can’t get by without a check until they reach the pros.

This debate is similar to the discussion of unpaid internships. No one wants to work for free, but certain people can afford to obtain experience without a paycheck, while many cannot. This is the unlevel playing field that is most concerning. 

Ultimately, it’s unjust for players to work for free while risking career-ending injuries. The positive outcomes for athletes profiting from their own likeness outweigh the possible negatives. Similar legislation should be passed across the country, as everyone should be able to profit from their own name.