Last month, the National College Players Association (NCPA) filed a complaint with the U.S. Dept of Education. It alleges that players’ compensation limits violate the civil rights of black athletes.
Furthermore, the action follows previous complaints made by the NCPA claiming that many college athletes should be considered employees.
College athletes are losing thousands annually due to compensation limits
Many states have passed legislation that demands college athletes be compensated for their names, images, and likenesses (NIL). This means student-athletes can earn income on advertising, autographs, and endorsements.
Massachusetts lawmakers are late to the game regarding NIL laws for athletes to earn income in this way. Sen. Barry Finegold introduced legislation that could bring the state up to par.
He says the bill he introduced will “ensure that college athletes in Massachusetts have the same protection as those states who have passed NIL legislation, in case the NCAA changes its rules in the future.”
However, even with those laws in place for some states, the NCPA complaint claims athletes lack compensation for what they’re worth without official salaries.
The NCPA’s complaint claims that when college athletes are “non-employees,” compensation doesn’t match their rightful earnings, approximately totaling:
- Football Players: $185,000 per year in FBS
- Division I players: $164,000 per year in men’s basketball
- Division I players: $24,000 per year in women’s basketball
The NCPA bases these numbers on college players’ market value.
College athletes risk big and earn little
The Justice for College Athletes Campaign (#JforJustice) calls to attention the injustice in players’ compensation considering how universities benefit from their athletes.
The campaign highlights that, “despite generating huge streams of revenue for our universities and the NCAA,” college sports organizations “unjustly collude to deny us a fair portion of the revenues they generate.”
Going further into the injustice, #JforJustice claims that a “lack of enforced health and safety standards subjects us college athletes to serious injury, death, and sexual abuse.”
Change.org lists data regarding the physical injuries and risks college athletes sustain:
- 85 deaths are on record among college athletes between 2000 and 2018.
- 66% of college athletes in Division I will incur a major injury related to college sports.
- Half of college athletes will suffer from chronic injuries after their college sports
- Roughly half of collegiate-level athletic trainers have reported pressure from above to return athletes to the game with concussions.
Black college athletes suffer a disproportionate impact
A 2021 study published in The Antitrust Bulletin reported that black players in Power 5 conferences could be losing out on over $1 billion in salaries every year. This number considers NCAA scholarships and amounts to roughly $250,000 in wages per player every year.
The study ultimately found $17.3 billion in earnings lost overall by black players between 2005 and 2019.
Authors of the study, Ted Tatos and Hal Singer, brought attention to the fact that inequalities in society are equally seen in college athletics.
“The economy of college sports reflects the inequity that pervades society, where examples of structural racism are legion,” the authors wrote in a Global Sports Matters op-ed.
The most recent complaint made by the NCPA also says compensation limits in college athletics perpetuate racial inequality.
“Because a high percentage of Black students are also college athletes,” said the NCPA. “The industry-wide compensation limit causes a disparate impact on Black college students.”
How student-athletes benefit from employee status
Currently, many college athletes are “amateurs,” and their status earns them no official salary. While some players earn income on NIL profits and scholarships, that’s not the case for all student-athletes.
By attaining recognition as university employees, college players receive fair compensation in the form of an annual salary.
Aside from earning actual income from the university, there’s another major benefit to college athletes winning consideration as employees. This wins them Collective bargaining rights.
The #JforJustice campaign has put a spotlight on the dangers of college athletics and the NCAA’s failure to protect their non-employee athletes.
“The NCAA vigorously enforces [its] rules prohibiting athlete compensation,” the campaign’s petition details page says. “But it is NOT against NCAA rules to sexually abuse a college athlete or kill a college athlete in a hazardous workout.”
Collective bargaining rights would allow college sports players to negotiate not only fair wages, but also other labor protections with regard to their health and safety.