Economists Argue That College Athletes Should Be Paid

The average pro basketball player makes $24.7 million over his 4.8 year career, according to The USA Today.

The average pro football player makes $6.7 million over his 3.5 year career.

But the average college basketball or football player doesn’t even make $1.  While they may receive full or partial academic scholarships, not a single college athlete is paid.

The NCAA, which regulates 23 sports at 1,200 schools across the US, has repeatedly argued student-athletes should not get salaries. They say this “undermines the purpose of college: an education.”

“Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary.”

In their recent report, The Case For Paying College Athletes, economists Allen Sanderson and his co-author John Siegfried claim this system is not only unfair, but possibly illegal.

“Last year in March, the National Labor Relations Board decided Northwestern’s football players were primarily athletes, rather than students,” says Allen Sanderson, senior lecturer in economics at the University of Chicago and co-author of the article.

Northwestern players can now get employee medical benefits and unionize, according to USA Today.

Although it doesn’t matter whether they unionize or not, Sanderson says, “because the overriding principle is they fall under labor law, not ‘student law.’”

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Northwestern is now appealing that decision.  The economists feel that Northwestern will lose the case.

“They’re going lose, they know they’re going lose,” Sanderson says. “Can the NCAA survive [players being labeled as employees]? Yes. But it’s going to be messy.”

Sanderson and his co-author John Siegfried believe the NCAA might not survive the outcome of the Kessler case.

“The Kessler case is a lawsuit [filed by Jeffrey Kessler] against the NCAA, arguing that it is price-fixing when the NCAA sets the amount for the grant-in-aid, tuition, room and books [student-athletes receive],” Sanderson explains.

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