Early on this semester we discussed the rights of college athletes as prompted by Charles Pierce’s article “Dispatches From the NCAA’s Deathbed”. Pierce speaks on the issue of personhood and the basis of whether or not athletes are having their rights taken away by being held to the strict rules of the NCAA. Currently I am enrolled in Sociology 102 and we have also touched on the topic of the NCAA’s involvement with student athletes.
The NCAA has consistently been scrutinized for its treatment of student athletes. Predominantly the controversy revolves around the question of whether student athletes, or amateurs, should be compensated for their contributions to the University. Before siding in this argument, is crucial to understand that student athletes truly are different from non-athlete students, which of course is not to say that athletes require special treatment but rather acknowledge that they live very different lives.
The NCAA insists that student athletes attend college first and foremost to get an education and often provide students with scholarships that at best will cover their room, board, and overall tuition. While this offer is very generous, is it really enough for these athletes to live on? The enrollment of a student athlete is contract based and therefore they have strict obligations to their school and their team. They do not possess the same free time that a non-athlete student has and are not able to receive the same resources such as working during the school year to cover extra costs.
[However, that is not to say that student athletes are “working”, as one could easily make an argument that athletes are unpaid employees of the University. Athletes are obligated to follow a (work) schedule that includes training, practices, games, and other events. They are held responsible for their actions during the game and must face the consequences when they do not do their “jobs” correctly on the field. Their commitment to their sport and willingness to sacrifice their time and possible well-being is immeasurable.]
How can we restrict athletes from earning a paycheck and also tell them that because of their dedication to their sport and their team that they cannot receive any benefits of the revenue they bring to their schools? Many student athletes have chosen college because it seemed to be their only route to either attending a high-ranking university or playing professional sports.
The NCAA has created a scheme in which athletes are pressured to play college sports if they plan to continue playing professionally. College sports have seemingly become a necessary route to professional sports. Student athletes are therefore forced to obey the rules of the NCAA as their disobedience could possibly cease future opportunities. While not all student athletes decide to play college sports to continue their athletic career many players await the day that they receive a phone call offering them the opportunity to enter a professional league.
Pierce suggests that the NCAA has taken away amateur athletes personhood by attempting to control their identity by controlling anything from am athlete’s uniform to their individual contracts. The NCAA’s fabricated mentality that “student athletes are here solely for an education and therefore should not request compensation” allows the organization to deny student athletes their rights to compensation and ultimately diminishes their personhood. It is unfortunate that the individuals who represent our colleges and universities receive little or no compensation for the amount of profit that they bring in for their schools. Perhaps even more of a tragedy is that students who contribute so much of their lives to their improving their school’s reputations are not allowed to benefit from their own personal success.