California has just passed a bill that will allow college athletes to profit from their likenesses, images and names. As far as I can tell it doesn’t change the relationship between the athlete and the university. It only allows the athlete to earn a little cash through endorsements, promotional gigs, shoe contracts, various avenues of personal marketing.
The Kardashian effect?
For all the people who speak out about what a great thing it is after all these years of exploiting student-athletes that they can finally get a cut of the profits, it doesn’t really work that way. The school can still exploit, profit from, market and in general make a fortune. But we have opened the door for others to move in and make a little cash off these children.
Do you really believe Nike, Adidas, Pepsi Cola or Chevrolet are so altruistic even when compared with the coaching staff and athletic departments of major colleges? Think again.
You can bet right now, state governments from Alabama to Washington are rushing to sign bills to compete. Nobody wants to face an exodus of “blue chippers” heading to California. A Grapes of Wrath migration of athletes willing to sign scholarship offers with small schools just for the opportunity to hawk the wares for Carmax or Target.
What amazes me more than anything is the lack of discussion about making it more reasonable to be a student-athlete. Maybe we should take steps to make them more student and less athlete. Maybe we need to crank back on the importance of Heisman Trophies and national championships and start talking about academic performance and improvement. About helping these young men and women adapt to the future demands of normal society.
Imagine if instead, a school took an underperforming child from a broken home, gave him a scholarship and turned him into State Supreme Court Justice. We could dance in the streets and burn couches for his Cum Laude graduation from law school. Or if she became a surgeon and saved lives in the ER on a regular basis, how would that play on the JumboTron?
I think we need a movement to make athletes more comfortable as people, as members of society whose success doesn’t have to be measured in yards or points or tackles.
But, maybe that is too much to ask.