NCAA votes to allow student athletes to get brand sponsorships

On Oct. 29 the board of the National Collegiate Athletics Association approved student athletes to allow them to receive sponsors and endorsements. Through a unanimous ruling, the governing body came to its decision after getting outside pressure from critics and pundits all around the sports world. The two biggest sports, football and basketball, make up a lion’s share of the multi-million-dollar industry, posting a reported 1.1 billion dollars in revenue in 2018. Both sports will likely be the ones to benefit the most from the NCAA’s decision that will take effect by January 2021 at the latest.

The discourse surrounding the compensation of college athletes has been around for decades. For years, proponents of this decision have pointed to the perceived contradictions between the amateur status of college sports and the huge revenue stemming from the marketing of their athletes’ likenesses. Detractors of this decision say that in student athletes being compensated it creates leeway for more corruption, along with the issues that comes with paying other athletic programs. “What you can’t have is a couple athletes driving around in Ferraris while everybody else is basically having a hard time making ends meet,” said Utah Senator Mitt Romney.

The NCAA released a statement on their website that included an eight-point guideline going into the specifics of what would they would permit as compensation. A few notable guidelines were to “assure student-athletes are treated similarly to non-athlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate,” “make clear the distinction between collegiate and professional opportunities” and “ensure rules are transparent, focused and enforceable and facilitate fair and balanced competition.” The decision also came a month after California passed the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” which will go into effect January 2023. California is the first state to legalize athletes receiving endorsements and lawmakers in other states such as South Carolina, Colorado, and Florida are looking to follow suit.

“A state-by-state rule will not work as it will make the playing field unleveled between states that allow it and those that don’t,” said BC Economics Professor Humaira Jackson. Jackson in collaboration with Professor Eric Davis will teach a class called “Show Me the Money” that delves into the intersection between economics, sports, and society. It won’t be part of BC’s Interdisciplinary Studies courses until the 2020-21 school year. “There are additionally a host of problems that can stem from ‘pay to play’ such as an incentive to further exploit athletes by recruiters and others,” continued Jackson. “We should also keep in mind that the prime beneficiaries of this change,  the lucrative men’s basketball and football programs, may outweigh the potential negative effects on women’s and less popular sports.” 

Another notable guideline in the statement was that the compensation of the athletes should “enhance principles of diversity, inclusion and gender equity.” This addresses other concerns surrounding Title IX, specifically the conflict in paying men’s and women’s programs equally. Despite how contentious the discourse surrounding this issue has been, both sides of the aisle are warming up to the idea. Going forward, the NCAA will have to deal with upholding the values of amateurism that their brand’s been built upon and going against a coalition that’s looking to disrupt it for good.