Pay for Play?

By Shamari Hamlet
The O’Bannon vs. NCAA case has been one of the most significant developments in the fight to compensate college athletes. In August of 2014 a judge ruled in favor of Ed O’Bannon, a former college basketball star at UCLA, who challenged that college athletes should be paid for their likeness being used for commercial purposes such as video games or billboards. Last year, a U.S. District judge in California ruled that college football and men’s basketball players can receive up to $5,000 in deferred compensation. On July 31, 2015, a day before the ruling was supposed to take affect, it was put on hold by an appeals court. About this decision, O’Bannon stated that “when you look at the facts, it’s only right that we do win.” He also stated that he kept his expectations in check about the ruling. Despite a win or a loss, he was proud that at least the court case would open a dialogue about this huge problem college athletes are facing.
Despite the O’Bannon vs. NCAA case being in limbo right now, progress has been made to compensate college athletes:
  • In January of 2015; the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, and PAC-12 approved to increase the value of an athletic scholarship by establishing “cost of attendance” stipends to cover the costs of college that are not included in their athletic scholarships.
  • In July of 2015, video game make Electronic Arts (EA) settled with college athletes to compensate them up to $7,000 if their name and likeness was used without permission in one of their games.
  • The College Football Playoffs will now provide a stipend to the fours playoff teams to cover travel costs for their families to attend the games.
The future of the O’Bannon vs. NCAA case depends on which side you talk to. O’Bannon envisions that someday all college athletes will be compensated fairly and enjoy financial benefits from playing college sports. Although three government entities decided that the NCAA exploits college football and men’s basketball players, the NCAA believes that “a multibillion dollar industry would be lost if the teenagers and young adults earn one dollar above their cost of school attendance.” The NCAA fears that chaos will ensue if schools pay their players. I, on the other hand, believe that the future of college sports looks like a combination of O’Bannon’s and the NCAA’s side. While I don’t believe that college athletes should earn a salary or be compensated every time their likeness is used commercially, I do believe that athletes should be paid a stipend for the cost of college that is above their tuition. College athletes should not be going hungry because they are out of their meal plan, they should be able to return home if they have a family emergency, and that athlete’s family should be able to travel to see them play in bowl and tournament games. For now though, we’ll have to wait for this long and tedious legal process to continue.
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