Paying college athletes can help close economic gaps

Going to college is a time to assert yourself into being the best version of yourself. For some, this means annually making the dean’s list or landing an exciting internship. For others, it’s working toward making it to the big leagues – literally.

Time and again, college athletes have showcased their stellar abilities on the court or in the field, granting them a sizable fanbase and dedicated following. Jerseys featuring their name and number may be sold or players may be featured in NCAA video games, however, the athlete doing all the work does not get to reap any of these benefits. Instead, the money goes to the Fortune 500 companies that profit off these athletes through branding equipment and advertisements during televised events.

Currently, college athletes may not profit from the use of their own name or likeness, or their potentially prominent and influential social media presence. Whereas, many of their fellow classmates are already doing exactly that.

Millennials are making a living by simply posting on social media. For example, gamers livestream themselves playing the latest video games and beauty gurus share makeup tutorials. The possibilities are endless, and they make money. However, college athletes are barred from leveraging their own popularity and seizing the same opportunities as their classmates using the image that they’ve built for themselves as renowned athletes.

This constraint also prohibits college athletes from partnering with companies to promote a product or a service in exchange for pay, which again, is something their peers are allowed to do.

While most college students are not social media influencers, they earn their money from working a part-time job. From balancing a full-time class load and at least 20 hours of practicing and training, squeezing time for a job into their rigorous schedule is unrealistic.

This restricts college athletes’ economic freedom and opportunities, and makes it much more difficult to earn just small amounts of spending money to even cover the costs of their textbooks and school supplies.

Meanwhile, in 2018 alone, college sports programs made $14 billion in ticket sales, television contracts, apparel deals and merchandise sales. Not only are college athletes not getting paid for the use of their own name or image, but they’re also not receiving their fair share of this income.

Coaches and athletic directors are paid extremely well based on the performance of unpaid athletes. On average, $273,000 is spent per coach and $22,000 is spent per athlete in the form of scholarships.

Some argue that college sports will lose their “amateurism nature” if they are allowed to be paid, but the real amateurism is allowing individuals to be taken advantage of by a $14 billion industry.

California recently passed a Pay to Play bill, and it’s time Pennsylvania does the same. I’m proud to support legislation that would be modeled after California’s and would empower college athletes to collect the money that they have rightfully earned.

House Bill 1909 would allow college athletes to sign endorsement deals, earn compensation for their name, image and likeness and sign licensing contracts that will allow them to earn money.

Universities are exploiting some of their most talented students, and I know that we can do better than putting institutions ahead of students by prohibiting them from earning a single dollar.