Paying College Athletes, or Not

A football player at the University of Florida recently called college football the “modern form of slavery” in a tweet which has since been deleted. He was referring to the amount of revenue that college football brings in, that the players receive none of. I would hardly call college football ‘slavery’ considering the many benefits college athletes receive, like the tons of free equipment and uniforms sponsored by Nike, Under Armour, and so on. Not to mention the private or charter flights college athletes take to away games and the free or discounted education they are getting because of their athletic skills.

So for someone who attends the University of Florida and reaps these benefits and many others to call it “slavery,” is a little out of line. The player did later issue an apology. The problem is, though he may have gone a little overboard, his message isn’t entirely wrong.

Should colleges have to pay their student-athletes? I don’t think so, they give them enough already. But should student-athletes be able to capitalize on their likeness and celebrity outside of the actual game? Yes.

If a company comes to a college-athlete asking them to endorse their product, the athlete should be allowed to take that opportunity. I see nothing wrong with a player wanting to get paid for autograph sessions or the selling of their jerseys and other merchandise.

In 2014, a group of Northwestern University football players attempted to unionize. They wanted to be treated like athletes in the NFL and other professional leagues, which would include being paid salaries, which would also complicate things immensely. If college football players were paid salaries, then what about the athletes in other college sports? How would they be dealt with?

There are also issues with a union of that kind, like the difficulty of deciding who could be in it, how they would start it, and how far would they be willing to go to receive compensation. The solution of treating student-athletes like employees is severely flawed and doesn’t seem like the correct way to go about things.

Today’s college sports are far from the “modern form of slavery” that the University of Florida student referred to them as, but not allowing college athletes to live up to their full potential and to deny them the ability to use their fame and talent while in school is very much old-fashioned and simply wrong.