Overtime: Should NCAA players be paid?

My first inclination when I read this headline at ESPN.com was to shout, “No way!”

Athletes are already offered tutors unavailable to the rest of college students, scholarships and a free pass out of classes.

Why should they be paid?

Then I let writer Tom Farrey drop some knowledge on me.

Lawyers representing former college football players and men’s basketball players are suggesting “that monies derived from television, video games and other products that use athletes’ names, images and likeness should be shared with players — and can be ‘temporarily held in trust for those individuals until cessation of their collegiate careers’ if the NCAA feels it needs to abide its notions of amateur sports.”

This could leave players with whopping tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in an account after they graduate.

Currently, players receive nothing for their appearance in any of the aforementioned because of an NCAA waiver they sign, as a condition of playing, which forfeits their rights to their own names and images.

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Is this fair?

Let’s look at it from a different perspective.

I’m earning my degree in journalism. I have scholarships specifically for journalism majors and I am paid to work at The Northern Light. Journalism is a talent and something I have worked on for years to excel at. I have the expectation to be paid for my work and time, despite being an “amateur journalist” the way NCAA players are “amateur athletes.”

Aug. 19, several members of the TNL staff and I spent hours editing a 32-page newspaper. The layout editor, Nick Foote, clocked in 15 hours that day to try to make the newspaper as perfect as possible.

How is that any different than an athlete putting in hours lifting weights, practicing their sport or playing catch-up for classes they’ve missed?

And, more importantly, how is it justified for businesses, such as video-games-maker Electronic Arts or the NCAA, to amass large volumes of revenue generated in part by the hard work of young people, who might be forced to reckon with student loan debt after their graduation?

Players and lawyers are not the only ones who back the suggestion.

Walter Byers, the NCAA’s first executive director, agreed to be a coup for the plaintiffs, backing an argument he made in a book he wrote, “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes,” where he outlines the idea that the amateur athlete model is a scheme to keep money out of the hands of student athletes.

This proposal is warranted and a long time coming. My peers deserve to profit from their skills in the same way I deserve to profit from mine.