California Wants to Pay Their College Athletes, and it’s Time to Join Them


The University of Utah cheer after a three point shot during an NCAA Basketball game vs. The University of Washington at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Sports Editor

The state of California is working on a bill called the Fair Pay to Play Act, which would make it legal to pay college athletes for use of their name, likeness and image. It has been passed by the state Senate and now only awaits the signature of Governor Gavin Newsom to make it law.

It’s about time to make this the norm in college sports. Players are not legally allowed to profit off of their sport as long as they are classified as an “amateur,” which applies to all college athletes. Top college athletes are potentially losing out on millions of dollars because of this.

Take Zion Williamson, for example. The biggest college star in recent memory was selected first overall out of Duke to play for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. His face was all over ESPN and on every magazine, internet article and newspaper. Shoe companies were lining up to offer him an endorsement deal the second he walked into the NBA. His rookie NBA deal is worth around $45 million for his first four seasons, and the shoe deal he signed with Nike is for $75 million over seven years. If he’s getting that much money now, how much was he denied over his college career in endorsement deals?

Some people may argue that since he’s making so much as soon as he enters the NBA, he doesn’t need any more than that and college athletes should just wait until they hit pro and get the cash then. Williamson was the best NBA prospect since LeBron James. The amount of money he brought to Duke is a lot, to say the least. All those ticket sales? Nationally televised games? Merchandise? All of that money goes into the pockets of the university and not the athlete. Considering Williamson is the reason all those people are buying jerseys and tickets, shouldn’t he be compensated? At least a little bit?

What if he were to suffer a career-ending injury early in his time in the NBA? Those last two years of his rookie deal aren’t guaranteed. There’s likely language in his Nike contract voiding it if he doesn’t play. The life of an athlete is very short, fragile, and unpredictable. Sure, he would probably be fine because of the spotlight he already has, but what about someone not in the limelight of the entire nation?

Take Bol Bol, for example. Before the draft, the Oregon player was expected to be a first-round pick. Many mock drafts had him going in the top 10. However, due to an injury, he slipped all the way down to the Denver Nuggets at 44th overall. He signed a two-way deal with the team. The details of the contract aren’t publicly available yet, but it’s likely in the $1-2 million range. The fact that so many teams were concerned about his injuries enough to pass on him is not a good sign for the longevity of his NBA career. A player once perceived as a top-10 talent now has a good chance to be out of the league sooner rather than later. As someone who had a ton of eyes on him in college at Oregon, he lost a ton of money due to the laws prohibiting it. Now he may never get an endorsement again and be out of the league within three years.

University of Utah freshman forward Timmy Allen (20) shot a free throw in an NCAA men’s basketball game vs. the University of Oregon at Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, UT on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. (Photo by Curtis Lin | Daily Utah Chronicle)

Another argument against it is that players are likely on scholarship and are therefore getting a free education, which is payment in and of itself. The reality is, a large number of players are so focused on their sport that they are putting almost all of their time into that. They go for the easiest degree or become a “one and done” by leaving college after one season, just to satisfy the NBA’s requirement to be one year removed from high school before entering the league. What if these players suffer injury or their career doesn’t go as they hope? For most athletes that will be picked in the draft, it’s the pros or bust. They are going to college as a means to get to the NBA or NFL, not to get an education. It doesn’t work out for everybody, and the chance to make some money, even just a small amount from local endorsements to fall back on, goes a long way.

It’s time for the 49 other states and the NCAA to let this through. Paying college athletes is only fair. It’s so hard to be one of the best in the world at your sport, and the amount of money it brings in is ridiculous. It’s unfair to not compensate athletes for this. They deserve it and the Fair Pay to Play Act is a step in the right direction.


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