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NCAA paves way in allowing athletes to profit off image rights

by Paul Cifonelli - Sports Editor
Tue, Nov 5th 2019 09:00 pm
The NCAA has officially voted in the right for college athletes to earn a financial gain from their name, image and endorsements. The vote is to take effect in coming years
The NCAA has officially voted in the right for college athletes to earn a financial gain from their name, image and endorsements. The vote is to take effect in coming years

After pressure had been applied by state legislators from many states, the NCAA finally decided to take its own vote on whether it should be compensating its student-athletes. After the “Fair Pay to Play Act” was passed in California, lawmakers in states such as New York and Florida moved to propose their own bills. The NCAA took over the issue and its top decision-makers voted unanimously that college athletes are allowed to profit off their name, image and likeness, according to Dan Murphy of ESPN. 

The NCAA, which has been notorious for strictly enforcing its rules against student-athletes earning money off their name, image and likeness, went out of character for this decision. NCAA Board Chair Michel Drake said the decision shows the NCAA’s ability to change with the times. 

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” Drake said to ESPN. “Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.” 

The NCAA has given its three divisions, Division I, Division II and Division III, until January 2021 to set their own rules and guidelines for how the college athletes would be compensated. The goal is for all student-athletes to have the same chances at earning money as their peers. The organization is also striving to make the rules “‘transparent, focused and enforceable’ and do not create a competitive imbalance,” according to Murphy. 

Division I athletes could really profit from these new rules, as they would have many more opportunities to have their name, image and likeness on display. One potential opportunity would be the revival of Electronic Arts’ (EA) college sports video games. Its’ NCAA Football game in particular was a major source of revenue for the company, as it was one of its best-selling titles in any category. NCAA Football 14, the final game in the series, sold approximately 1.5 million copies, according to Thomas Barrabi of Fox Business. The series has to be discontinued in 2015 after a lawsuit was filed against both EA and the NCAA for using the players’ likenesses without compensating them. 

The news of the decision was taken with both skepticism and optimism. Sen. Mitt Romney (R) saw an immediate problem in fairly compensating people. He is worried some student-athletes would be making millions of dollars while some of their teammates would be making the bare minimum. 

“I don’t think you can have an athlete at a school making a million dollars a year at that school and lording it over everybody else on the team and everyone else on the campus,” Romney told Outside the Lines. “That’s what they’re going to get when they go pro. While they’re at school, they’re still a student-athlete, and there has to be some limit to how much money is coming to an individual and there has to be a way to get compensation to other members of the team. I mean, that left tackle also needs to have some capacity to have some funds to be able to make ends meet and to be able to help their family.” 

Other skeptics are concerned about the wording the NCAA to used when describing how it would make the rules for compensation. The phrase “follow the collegiate model” was used, which has no definition and could be used as a way for the NCAA to limit how student-athletes can be compensated. 

The NCAA still has a lot to figure out on this issue, but the progress being made toward paying college athletes for the use of their name, image and likeness is a win for those who could profit from it. 

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