Law in Contemporary Society
-- NicholasWillingham - 02 Jun 2015

Professor Moglen I attempted to answer your comments in the section titled "Scope of the Question"

-- NicholasWillingham - 17 Jun 2015


Should College Athletes Be Paid?

Should College Athletes Be Paid? Introduction In the world of college sports, there is no other issue more contentious than whether college athletes should be paid. The issue reemerged during the 2013 March Madness Tournament when Connecticut college basketball star Shabazz Napier stated that there were nights that he went hungry. His statements sparked an outrage among critics of college sports who criticized the NCAA for its hypocrisy, the NCAA profits while not returning a dime to its players. Supporters of the status quo rushed to defend their position that free tuition and fees is adequate compensation. Additionally, their position was grounded in the protection of amateur sports and its athletes. But does this argument really stand as a strong justification for low compensation?

Scope of the Question

I agree that other inquiries are equally, if not more important than my own inquiry. But ultimately I dismissed most of the other scopes of the question because of political infeasibility. It seems highly unlikely that the United States will migrate to a system where amateur sports is not apart of the college experience. The IRS has good grounds for revoking the tax exempt status of the colleges and universities that sponsor athletics. But its highly unlikely that Congress or the President will take action to change the laws concerning tax exemption. Sure, TV contracts, and profits from merchandise sold should end but any politician understands that it is unwise to interfere with sports. This also goes for the tax exempt status of the MLB, NFL and the NBA as well. So while outsiders understand that athletes attend primarily for athletics, they are more than likely unwilling to have it any other way. Of course athletics has no strong connection to the educational experience, but a solution to the current system should probably focus on the reality that the universities and athletics will most likely always remain. This essay attempts to find new solutions in a way that are feasible in the current environment, while acknowledging that obviously there are better solutions.


Over 80% of the NCAA profits are generated by the NCAA March Madness Tournament, which generated over $1 billion this past year. The commercialization of sports in the last ten years has greatly increased the NCAA’s ability to cash in on their sporting events. Most of the athletes that are the source for revenue are poor and middle class African-American males. Most of their family members cannot afford to attend their games. Most of their parents cannot afford to send them money to eat on the weekends or during the summer. Most of their parents cannot afford their tuition if they suffer a career ending injury. If the fear and anxiety of these problems are not enough, only 1% of these athletes end up as professional athletes. The issue of pay also greatly impacts another important issue in the American workforce, the athlete’s ability to unionize. There is no secret that the number of Americans represented by unions has greatly diminished in our lifetime. Athlete’s should have the ability to have their voices heard in the same manner as their professional counterparts. Some supporters argue that tuition, fees, room, board and books are adequate compensation for their services. These supporters ignore that tuition and fees do not cover the additional costs of attending college. The additional living expenses not covered by scholarship cannot be covered by the athletes because they are prevented from working. The importance of these issues persist over many aspects of our society. The prominent rich, wealthy and affluent class profiting on the backs of the poor and middle class. The corporation that compensates its CEO with over $10 million in stock options, while not paying its lower level employees a living wage. While this is not the story of every athlete, there is a sizable number of the revenue sports who share this story.


The first solution would be to completely segregate universities from amateur sports. High school students would go straight to semi-professional or professional leagues right from high school. This solution is most likely politically infeasible. Americans love their college sports and want them to remain apart of the educational experience. A more politically feasible solution would be to reform the NCAA. The NCAA should be striped of its ability to collect and distribute revenue. The NCAA would act as a United Nations governing body over disputes and to provide uniformity among the different collegiate conferences. Another creative solution would allow colleges to change the compensation structure for its athletes. The colleges would be allowed to pay the athletes’ room, board and living expenses during a four year period. The athletes are given four year tuition in a trust which they can transfer to their spouse or children, which solves a major problem in collegiate sports. Due to their strenuous practice schedules and time commitments, athletes are hardly able to actually master the material and some have no interest in the education at all. The trust would only cover tuition because when athletes return to school to complete their education they will either have money saved or can work to cover the additional costs.


College sports has had a great influence on American culture over the last couple of decades. While some argue that professional athletes are over compensated for their work. The way in which we allow our college athletes to be treated reflects on our values as a country. The problem is not just with the NCAA or the colleges but also the consumer. Why can we sit on our couches, or take in the game at a bar without thinking about the athletes? What if we stopped attending or watching the games? We could single handily force the NCAA to change if we simply sent the message that the status quo is no longer acceptable.

Why is the scale of the question set at whether student athletes should be paid, instead of whether non-profit institutions earning large amounts of money giving athletic exhibitions should lose their tax-exempt status? Is the point that we think some performers should be paid more, or that the prostitution of education to TV contracts for team sports exhibitions should cease? Do we think students should not be traded an education for sports performances valuable to a school's business model, or that the education they are receiving isn't good enough to reciprocate the labor? Are we unhappy that football is part of what Columbia claims it is a model non-profit for doing?

I don't know why the scope of the inquiry is this one, rather than all the others, most of which seem more important to me. The essay does not say.


Webs Webs

r4 - 30 Jun 2015 - 14:20:09 - MarkDrake
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