Interception! --courtesy of your university

College sports bring home big money for coaches, managers and the schools they serve. However, there’s always one group missing who makes the whole show possible: the players. Student-athletes aren’t paid and with the amount of revenue they generate for their schools. That undeniably raises an eyebrow, no matter what your opinion. 

In 2018, all of the men’s sports raked in almost $5 million for UNC Charlotte and nearly $6 million just four years ago according to College Factual. March Madness, an almost-sacred national spectacle, brings in over $1.32 billion in TV advertisements alone. It’s a big business and much of that money is spent on new equipment, refurbished facilities and merchandise, but not a penny on the players. 

That may be changing sooner than you think. In California, the NCAA recently started allowing student-athletes to profit off of their likeness. This is a complete 180 for an organization that has, for a long time, banned student-athletes from taking money. Setting a new precedent, this rule could spread nationwide, potentially ending the days of penniless players for college sports; however, the chance of this happening is slim to none, which leaves student-athletes on this campus and elsewhere unpaid under the pretext of being students, not athletes. Coining the term "student-athlete" was the courtesy of Walter Byers, the first-ever NCAA executive, back in 1964. The term then was used as a flimsy defense against worker compensation for these students. 

Student-athletes do deserve paychecks. Here’s my rationale: I am a student-journalist. My studies come first, but I’m still paid for what I do for this school even though it is recreational, not academic. The same should be said about athletes. They may be students, but they still work like employees. For many, sports are their career, and just like I will get a deposit for this story, they should be paid for their next game. To say otherwise is cowardly, greedy or both. If basic hourly pay is not an option, there should at least be a small stipend that comes as part of their scholarship. The one caveat for universities (including our own) is to provide compensation to cover medical bills in case a player is injured. That way, players won’t lose out and get thrown out of school over a broken neck; college isn’t cheap and the NCAA knows that. 

To its credit, the NCAA does force all college athletes to have health insurance –– it’s a lucky rebuttal to my argument. But what it doesn’t do is force colleges to pay the health costs for athletes. Should a player be injured, their parent's insurance is considered the main insurance for covering the cost of the injury. On the official NCAA website, the organization states that “during NCAA championships, the NCAA provides supplemental insurance of up to $90,000 in medical expenses for student-athletes who are injured.” However, colleges have the choice to deny any coverage for that $90,000, making it useless. It comes down to cost. According to Duke Law Professor Paul Haagen, “A better system would cost a lot.” 

Another common counterargument I hear from people is that student-athletes are paid, not in cash but in sports scholarships. But on the contrary, you can’t call it a payment if a player is injured and said ‘payment’ is taken away from them. Scholarships are a privilege that can be suspended if a player breaks a knee during the game or takes a knee during the national anthem. In a sense, players are at the mercy of their coach, the university and their friendly neighborhood scholarship distributor. 

It’s easy for some angry armchair to say that players shouldn’t be paid; they just want to see players grab the ball and run for their entertainment. But being an athlete in college isn’t easy. When you’re constantly practicing, lifting weights and balancing schoolwork all at once, free time dwindles and players run the risk of exhaustion. Let’s not forget that the "student" in student-athlete comes first and a good GPA is the most important score; however, in a 2014 investigation, it was revealed that UNC Chapel Hill found a loophole around grades. For years, the school held fraudulent so-called "paper" classes to boost athlete GPAs. It’s funny how when it comes to classes, they are athletes who need an easy A, but bring up a paycheck, and they’re students who need to focus on their studies. It’s bullshit. 

Regardless, everyone should be paid for their work, whether it be at Waffle House or on turf. And denying anyone pay is a bad look. However, this school can be different. We don’t have to follow in the footsteps of Chapel Hill and can instead be the first in the UNC system that treats our athletes fairly. Payment and a decent education; that’s the way. 

There are two kinds of people who aren’t paid: slaves and interns. And, to my knowledge, a student-athlete is neither. 

 

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