Former UCLA basketball great Ed O’Bannon’s class-action lawsuit decision against the NCAA in 2014, ruled that not paying college athletes for their name, image and likeness in video games violated antitrust laws.
Seven years later in 2021, in NCAA v. Alston, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the organization again violated antitrust laws by capping the value of athletic scholarships. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that the NCAA not paying athletes “would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”
However, that ruling did not address the issue of paying student-athletes. Now, with NIL, which in many ways was created by the O’Bannon and Alston lawsuits, the issue is still unresolved.
Last October, the NCAA introduced a second set of clarifications on how existing NCAA rules apply to its interim NIL policy, including Division I member schools’ involvement in NIL activities. This in essence has led to the rise of NIL collectives that are growing almost every day.
Front Office Sports last week reported that LSU has four of the top 10 women’s sports athletes’ in NIL earning potential. According to On3, basketball players Angel Reese ($1.4M) and Flau’jae Johnson ($812,000) are two Black women listed among the top spots.
EA Sports announced last week that it has a licensing deal with One Team Parties that features a $5 million pool for 10,000 eligible FBS football players, regardless of position, that will pay $500 to each player for their name, image and likeness on EA’s new 2024 college football video game.
These NIL deals, large or small, that male and female college athletes can now get appear on the surface to be a win-win for the players. But are they?
“I think [the NCAA] has used NIL to its advantage in terms of not addressing the more central issue, which is the employment issue,” stated Ithaca College Sports Media Professor Ellen Staurowsky. She is a longtime leading advocate for college players getting their fair compensation in the huge dough their respective schools bring in from their playing.
Staurowsky co-authored “College Athletes for Hire,” a landmark study on the financial shortfall for athletes on full scholarships, as well as a study that exposed how NCAA sports “robs” predominately Black college football and basketball players of billions in generational wealth. She also gave expert testimony in the O’Bannon lawsuit trial.
Over the years, tthe professor and former college athletic director has taken our calls for her expert analysis on issues in college sports. She recently talked to the MSR, which asked if the NCAA is using NIL as a delay tactic to avoid the paying college athletes.
“I do think the NCAA has been incredibly consistent over the years doing everything they possibly can, not to recognize the labor force that works for them and that generates the revenue [for big-time schools and universities],” said Staurowsky. “I don’t think that’s accidental, given the fact that the NCAA has been so effective in its messaging over the years. This is all just camouflage to give the appearance that something meaningful is actually happening, when athletes continue to get crumbs from the table.”
No matter how huge some NIL deals seem to be, it’s minuscule in comparison to the megadeals schools and the NCAA get from television rights. A “USA Today” report last week showed that the Power Five conferences combined for over $3.3 billion in revenue during the 2022 fiscal year.
The Big Ten had the greatest revenue total with $845.6 million. Minnesota and each member school other than Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers got about $58.8 million.
“When you add all of the stuff,” concluded Staurowsky, “athletes once again are getting pennies compared to what all those other people [coaches and other top officials] are making.”