The Government Shouldn’t Stop College Athletes From Making Money
I love football. Like millions of Americans, I watched the Georgia Bulldogs claim college football immortality by leaping over the Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs to win their second straight College Football Playoff National Championship. But the injustice of college football has made it hard for me to enjoy in recent years as college administrators, television networks, and companies from Duke’s Mayo to Bad Boy Mowers make billions of dollars while the players remain unpaid.
Only 1.6 percent of college football players make it to the NFL. And even if they do make it, the average NFL career is just over three years. Given the incredibly limited amount of time college athletes have to earn money based on their hard work and natural talents, it is both unconstitutional and unethical for states to restrict their earning potential.
But that’s exactly what they do.
In 2021, the Supreme Court made some progress for college athletes in NCAA v. Alston by striking down NCAA regulations limiting the education-related benefits that schools may offer to student-athletes, such as scholarships or internships. Following the decision, the NCAA began dismantling restrictions on athletes making money off their names, images, and likenesses, commonly referred to as “NIL.”
Allowing college athletes to begin receiving NIL money was a much-needed first step in creating a better environment for college athletes. But as is often the case, this modest step forward was almost immediately met with two steps back in the form of state regulation.
According to law firm Saul Ewing’s NIL Legislation Tracker, 32 states have passed laws restricting student-athletes’ ability to enter into NIL deals. For example, Florida legislators passed a law prohibiting athletes from receiving a NIL deal “in exchange for athletic performance or attendance at a particular institution.” This means that a fan of the University of Miami cannot give a NIL deal to a high school prospect in exchange for the athlete playing for the Hurricanes.
Although some companies surely want to give NIL deals to athletes for commercial purposes only, it is much more likely that fans who own companies will give NIL deals to top athletes to secure their services. Indeed, billionaire and noted Hurrican
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