Wages for work should apply to college athletes


The U.S. Supreme Court this past week proved a formidable bench for college athletes, when all nine justices backed education-related payments to the students.

The decision could be a first step in a sprint to reshape college sports.

The case involved student athletes who felt they were being exploited, as they toiled on courts and fields with no compensation while the NCAA raked in billions of dollars from TV contracts, ticket sales, merchandising and more.

The NCAA had sought to frame its argument against compensating student athletes because doing so, lawyers said, would blur the line between pro sports and college sports.

The High Court’s vision wasn’t blurred. Justices clearly saw the NCAA stance as a move to buck antitrust law — and they were pretty direct in their comments.

Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the court, but in his concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh took the NCAA to task for acting "above the law" in how it treats athletes.

"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 noted the disparity of colleges reaping big dollars when student athletes don’t see a dime.

"The bottom line is that the NCAA and its member colleges are suppressing the pay of student athletes who collectively generate billions of dollars in revenues for colleges every year. Those enormous sums of money flow to seemingly everyone except the student athletes."

To its credit, the NCAA was already working on measures for student athletes to benefit whenever their name, image and likeness are used.

To be fair, this issue is more complicated than it might seem on the surface.

What will the move toward paying athletes mean for smaller schools?

Will giving athletes their fair share of athletic revenues calm the arms race that is big-time athletics or make it worse?

And what about the so-called non-revenue sports? What will the salary for that hot shot quarterback mean for the kid playing field hockey? Will those minor sports still exist?

These are all questions the NCAA will have to answer as it sorts through the implications of this important ruling.

While the Supreme Court’s decision pertained only to education-related compensation for student athletes, the next logical step for the NCAA — and the one it should take — is to enable athletes to monetize their talent by paying them for their services.

The big-time athletic programs can afford it — and it’s the right thing to do.

No posts to display