By Hunter Ford
I have wondered, while following news coverage of the O’Bannon lawsuit, if Alabama fans would care one way or another if Crimson Tide athletes got paid.
My personal answer is no. No, I would not care if the best athletes in Tuscaloosa were able to earn money for their efforts. I would say the softball and gymnastic teams deserve a raise, and most of the men’s basketball players should be fired.
If you’ve been in a cave on a deserted island and don’t know anything about the O’Bannon lawsuit, here is a link to a great column that sums it up nicely.
Major college football and basketball generates gazillions of dollars. None of those dollars end up in the pockets of players. Not legally, anyway. Would it somehow detract from your enjoyment of the games if you knew players could legally earn commissions, royalties, or some other kind of paycheck?
Do you still feel that college athletes should be free of the entanglements that money causes? Would we see players skipping pre-season practice and holding out for more money? Would there be an opening for more lawsuits if women claimed they were not compensated in an equitable fashion compared to men? Would ticket prices for games be raised past an already absurd level?
I don’t believe the O’Bannon lawsuit will create those scenarios. If the plaintiff’s win, the case will certainly be appealed. But, in the end, what they are asking for, if they do win, is not a salary for playing sports. They are asking for the right to receive compensation for endorsement deals, and the use of their likenesses and names in broadcasts and video games; things that would not be possible if not for their efforts.
I can see one possible benefit for fans. If football players at Alabama were allowed to receive monetary compensation for their efforts, perhaps we wouldn’t lose so many underclassmen to the NFL. It might be nice to keep our best players around a little longer.
It has been several decades since you could call major college sports a purely amateur endeavor; at least not with a straight face. To quote the column I linked:
“Once they started calling it the FedEx Orange Bowl, the jig was up, and keeping money from those who are doing the most to earn it isn’t going to bring back the misty past.”