You may ask, “What about college football?’ But, first, please realize that college football is professional football also.
In 2017-2018 the Wall Street Journal estimated the value of several top college football teams and found four—Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma, and Alabama—valued at over $1 billion, with Ohio State topping the list at $1.5 billion.
They generate millions of dollars of revenue each year. And everybody gets paid—except the players, the ones fans pay to see. So saying they are “student-athletes” and therefore they should not be paid is a farce.
Many who support the NCAA’s amateurism argument point to the scholarships many of these athletes receive. These scholarships include tuition, room, and board, which averages around $25,000 per year for public colleges and universities which host the predominant football powers. Considering the hours these athletes put in, this is minimum wage. In other words, these athletes get minimum wages for college sports enterprises that are worth billions of dollars.
After many years of this amateur student-athlete sham, the NCAA is beginning to lose its argument. First, the public is starting to see through this indefensible position. They have begun asking why football players should not be paid if they generate the money.
California led the way by enacting legislation prohibiting college athletes from being punished for using their “names, images, and likenesses” (NIL) rights in endorsement deals, social media, and related actions. However, due to the public catching on to the NCAA’s gimmick, many other states are following suit to make sure that they remain competitive for the top athletes. This forced the NCAA in July to approve a policy to allow college athletes to get paid for their NIL.
Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in against the NCAA. In June, the Court ruled 9-0 against the NCAA’s argument to be excluded from antitrust laws. The harshest critique of the NCAA came from Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion, which called the ruling “an important and overdue course correction.” Then he issued a blistering attack on the NCAA’s model.
“Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate,” Kavanaugh wrote. “And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different.
“The NCAA is not above the law.”
Kavanaugh’s opinion tears into the NCAA’s assertion that amateurism is, as he wrote, “the defining feature of college sports.” Such “innocuous labels,” as Kavanaugh called them, “cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”
“All of the restaurants in a region cannot come together to cut cooks’ wages on the theory that ‘customers prefer’ to eat food from low-paid cooks. Law firms cannot conspire to cabin [restrain] lawyers’ salaries in the name of providing legal services out of a ‘love of the law.’ Hospitals cannot agree to cap nurses’ income in order to create a ‘purer’ form of helping the sick. News organizations cannot join forces to curtail pay to reporters to preserve a ‘tradition’ of public-minded journalism. Movie studios cannot collude to slash benefits to camera crews to kindle a ‘spirit of amateurism’ in Hollywood.”