Exploitation in the Sports Industry
Student athletes deserve better compensation
26 Mar, 2012 2:51
Some people might counterpoint by saying student-athletes do get paid, through athletic scholarships! Well, I took a look at the numbers, and I’ll let you decide if this “compensation” is fair. Let’s take the University of Alabama, a pretty big football school in the NCAA. Full tuition for a non-resident (residents are less than half this) is around $11,000 per semester. Including living expenses, etc., the university estimates it costs around $18,000 per semester. That seems like a pretty good deal, if you’re getting all that covered. Of course, then you take a look at the numbers and realize the University of Alabama took in around $70 million in revenue from the NCAA last year. Oh, and they paid their football coach around $4.5 million. Suddenly, your 0.05% cut doesn’t seem as equitable, especially since NCAA regulations prohibit athletes from selling any personal athletic attire, accepting gifts (for example, dinners from fans) and pretty much anything that might actually benefit a student-athlete personally. The NCAA refuses to give these student-athletes lunch money, and then removes their ability to make any on their own.
NCAA athletes can’t catch a break anywhere else either. EA sports makes millions of dollars off of college-related sports games. How much do NCAA athletes off these deals? Nothing. Fortunately for future NCAA athletes, former NCAA athletes recently sued Electronic Arts to recover the claimed losses. Under the law in Indiana, where the NCAA is headquartered, claimants could be awarded $1000 per image for every platform. Limiting the calculations to solely basketball and football players would result in total damage awards of $334.5 million. The law also allows for this amount to be trebled should the infraction have been done knowingly, adding up to approximately $1 billion. Unfortunately for future NCAA athletes, they lost the case, which is actually pretty interesting, if you look at previous precedents.
In 1974, Colonel Sanders sued Kentucky Fried Chicken for using his image to promote products he didn’t invent (for the record, the founder called the new gravy “wallpaper paste”). Kentucky Fried Chicken tried to countersue – but it never finished in court. Instead, KFC settled with the Colonel and paid him the cool sum of $1 million. And this was after he’d already allegedly sold the rights to his image in the original sale – it’s a shame these athletes didn’t hire his lawyer.
The idea of owning one’s own image is a popular one and an interesting one, but probably not really grounded in law. Appear in the public domain, and anyone can legally take a quick snapshot. People can even take video of you, as long as there’s no sound. When we as students accept McGill University’s entrance offer and enter the school, we actually give the rights to our own images and allow the university to take advantage of them for promotional and other purposes. I know this was the case at my high school as well. This definitely brings up some interesting questions. The most important one: don’t judge a university, a game and especially a book by its cover, since the cover may not even want to endorse the content it represents.