The Price of College Sports: Why can’t college players endorse a product?

During this past weekend as my girlfriend and I fought over what to watch on Netflix we decided to compromise and watch a movie titled, “Schooled: The Price of College Sports”. This movie discusses the exploitation that colleges use in order to profit off of its collegiate athletes focusing particularly on football and basketball.  One of the main issues the movie covers is how college athletes cannot do endorsement deals yet they are featured in NCAA sports games. I think this presents an interesting moral question. Why is it that the colleges these athletes play at rake in millions of dollars through endorsement deals, ticket sales and TV packages while claiming that the athletes are amateurs playing only for the love of the game? It is true that the colleges provide free education and training but in order to abstain from paying college athletes they must classify them as amateurs. This presents a conundrum; any other student on a college campus can work at the college and earn money or leave the college early to find employment.

Several months ago Johnny Manziel, a popular up and coming college football player, was surrounded in a controversy when he autographed numerous items to be sold. According to the NCAA players cannot, “use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind.” This falls in line with the idea of college athletes being amateurs who do not receive pay. In the movie there was a former basketball player who had his likeness used in an NCAA 2009 basketball game. The former player was paid nothing even though his likeness was used in a product with the intention to make money. Does the college permanently hold the rights to his likeness? A former football player compared the condition of college athletics to indentured servitude, where the athletes acquire food, shelter and training in regards for otherwise free work. This is a completely one sided arrangement. The NCAA should allow college athletes to profit by using deals using their likeness for endorsements.

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