Siebold: College athletes need to demand a paycheck
When the most talented basketball players in college sports fight it out for a national championship, another fight will take center stage again: the debate over whether or not college athletes should be paid. As March Madness enters its final weekend, another kind of madness, the fact that the people who generate all the revenue get no compensation for their work, will continue uninterrupted.
While it seems overly apparent to me and many others that college athletes should indeed be paid, many people still disagree. That’s why I believe it’s time for college athletes, particularly those in the football and basketball programs — the athletes who generate billions of dollars in revenue for everyone but themselves — to unionize and demand their fair share.
Let’s be clear: I’m a big supporter of a free enterprise capitalistic society, and in general I’m very anti-union. There was a time when employers abused their power and unions leveled the playing field. But we are living in a very different environment. These days, many union workers are spoiled with inflated wages, tenure and guaranteed work based on everything except job performance and results.
But college athletics? That’s a different story. Without the athletes, college sports wouldn’t be what it is. Millions of people wouldn’t tune in to the big games, companies wouldn’t spend millions of dollars on advertising and nobody would be making any money. Just as unions gave the little guy a voice in business, the college athletes are today’s little guys who don’t have a voice and are being ripped off and taken advantage of. The schools profit. The coaches profit. The television networks profit. The local communities profit. So how is it fair that everyone wins except the very people responsible for it all? A unionized system would take care of that.
Many people like to argue that no system could compensate college athletes fairly. That’s nothing more than an excuse to detract from the issue at hand. If every system had to either be perfect or not exist at all, well … we wouldn’t have many systems. The same pay scale that is used in any other big business would work in this case, too. Players could be paid based on productivity. The more value the athlete brings, the more he is paid.
The only way for the athletes to accomplish this is to unionize. They, on their own, would never be able to make this happen. They need professional representation to protect and further their rights and interests.
Let’s face reality: Many college football and basketball players come from low-income families, and the majority aren’t going to make it to the pros. They’re doing all the heavy lifting, putting in hours in the gym and practice on the field, bringing in millions of dollars in profits, and they deserve a real salary. Just as unions changed the American workforce, they can ensure that college athletes get their rightful piece of the pie.
Steve Siebold is author of “177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class.”