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The state of Georgia took a huge step forward when House Bill 617 was passed and signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this month. 

Taking effect July 1, the measure allows collegiate student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness. Think autograph signings, commercials and other endorsements. 

College athletes getting paid for their name, image and likeness (NIL) has been a hotly-discussed issue for a few years now, but it lost a lot of steam when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I think we had our priorities straight with that one. Several states have since adopted their own NIL laws, but it’s believed that those are just placeholders until something comes down from the federal level. 

Georgia’s bill states the facts pretty bluntly, at least compared to most other laws I’ve read. “The General Assembly finds that intercollegiate athletic programs provide student-athletes with significant educational opportunities. However, participation in intercollegiate athletics should not infringe upon the rights of student-athletes to have control over and profit from the commercial use of their name, image, or likeness.” Translation: scholarships are indeed a big benefit, but it’s wrong for an elite athlete’s earning potential to be capped simply because he or she is in college.

Athletes getting these NIL pay opportunities makes perfect sense to me, but what boggles my mind is that there are people opposed to these athletes receiving a piece of the pie they are helping to create. Actually, that’s not even a good analogy. NIL opens the oven door for a completely separate pie. The future money made by college athletes based off their name, image and likeness will not come from their school. Tuition is not going to go up. Your taxes won’t be raised. (Well, at least not due to NIL.)

“But they already get paid! It’s called a scholarship!” I’m glad you made that point. Now let’s run through this carefully-worded hypothetical so I can shoot it down. Productive Pat and slacker Sam both work for the same company. Pat is beyond exceptional at his job, which helps the company garner national attention and make more money. But Pat is paid the same flat wage as his co-workers. No matter how much extra business he generates, he will never be offered a raise or better position at the company. Pat can’t get a different job either. This line of work is pretty much all he’s ever known and no one else will pay him more. Any career change would be a significant step down from the life he’s living. So his pay remains the same as slacker Sam, who stays out of trouble and does just enough work every day to keep his job.  

Now imagine that company is an elite college football program, and Pat is a Heisman Trophy finalist while Sam is that player whose name you only hear called because its Senior Day. Their “pay” is the same, but the value each brings to their college/university is a mountain versus a mole hill. Time to show these elite athletes the money.

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