Athletes not only ones being exploited

By Lindsey Woods

Most graduating college students entering the job market will find themselves working for free. It has become commonplace for companies to shamelessly exploit desperate undergrads who will do anything they can to beef up their résumés.

While I don’t agree with this practice, it’s a reality for many young people. Internships provide valuable job experience and are often the best way to break into the job market, even if that job market happens to involve helmets and spandex pants.

New developments in former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s class action lawsuit against the NCAA has revived the debate about paying college athletes. O’Bannon’s lawsuit accuses the NCAA of violating anti-trust laws by using the names and likenesses of athletes in video games and other commercial ventures to generate money without permission. He is proposing that money from the licenses be put into temporary trusts that players can access upon graduation.

While O’Bannon’s proposal seems fair, some players are seeking more than revenue from licensing rights. Last October, 300 NCAA athletes petitioned the association to give them a cut of the billion-dollar college sports industry. Supporters contend that because athletes work long hours and endanger their bodies, they are entitled to compensation.

The fact is, a large majority of players are paid in the form of scholarships, some worth tens of thousands of dollars. That’s more money than most college students get paid to work in their respective fields.

From my perspective, college sports are like internships. For athletes who plan to go pro, it provides the opportunity to simulate future job experiences and recruitment opportunities for paid positions. Players who don’t want to make sport their profession are getting a discounted education that will hopefully lead to jobs, post graduation. That’s a ton more than other students get.

It’s self-centered for college athletes to think they’re the only ones working for free. Yes, the school and the employees involved in big name athletic programs make lots of money and the players get squat, but that’s no different from college students getting hired as unpaid interns at big companies who profit from their work. Colleges use former students’ likenesses and successes to recruit new students and make more money, much like the NCAA’s treatment of former athletes.

If there’s any issue here, it’s not just college athletes getting paid, but all college workers. If student athletes want to fight for something, they should join forces with the rest of their exploited student body and fight for fair and equal pay across the playing field. Otherwise, they’re just perpetuating the stereotype of athletes being self-centered and entitled.