California Signs Law To Allow College Athletes To Get Paid. Will NCAA Call Jay-Z To Help Fix Its Problems?

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Race factored into the debate over whether to pay college athletes. California signed a law to allow them to get paid. Will the NCAA call Jay-Z to help? Southern Mississippi wide receiver De’Michael Harris (18) and defensive end Praise Amaewhule (23) are pictured on a two-yard touchdown run during the NCAA college football game in Hattiesburg, Miss., Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law the Fair Pay to Play Act— a bill that requires state colleges to let college athletes earn money from licensing their own names, images and likenesses.

The law, signed today, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023, and it means the NCAA has to decide between letting college athletes sign endorsement deals or try to ban California member colleges who comply with the law. Doing the latter means the NCAA risks an antitrust lawsuit that could ultimately lead to its own demise, Forbes reported.

Some believe that colleges and universities make far too much money from athletes’ services. Others think the free tuition for athletes with scholarships should be enough.

Funded by taxpayers, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) is a nonprofit that regulates student athletes from more than 1,260 North American institutions and conferences. However, that nonprofit designation is controversial. Calling it a nonprofit organization “is like saying Beyoncé and Jay Z are poor because Blue Ivy is going to end up with all the money anyway,” Michael Harriot wrote in The Root in 2017.

In 2014, DJ Khaled dropped a new track titled “They Don’t Love You No More” featuring verses by Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Rick Ross and French Montana. In the lyrics, Jay Z slammed the NCAA, saying players should be paid.

Jay–Z also slammed the NFL for blacklisting Colin Kaepernick in 2016 over his on-field protests against police brutality and systemic racism that started a movement. Recently, however, Jay-Z partnered in a hugely controversial deal with the NFL to help clean up its image problem after the way it treated Kaepernick. Jay-Z was accused of selling out.

Angela Helm compared Jay-Z to Judas over the NFL deal, writing for The Root that he has received “half of his thirty pieces of silver.”

Former ESPN host Jamele Hill called Jay-Z “an accomplice in the (NFL’s) hypocrisy,” saying, “Jay-Z has given the NFL exactly what it wanted: guilt-free access to Black audiences, culture, entertainers, and influencers.”

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The NCAA made more than $1 billion for the first time in 2017 — most of it generated by the Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, also known as March Madness. Media rights to the NCAA tournament account for 80 percent of the NCAA’s revenue. But regardless of how much money it makes, the NCAA has refused to pay college athletes, using “amateurism” rules in court to justify this refusal.

Amateurism, according to the NCAA Division I handbook, declares that student-athletes shall be amateurs in an intercollegiate sport, and their participation should be motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental, and social benefits to be derived.

Paying college athletes “would distract in a very significant way from pursuing what they really need to pursue — an education… And we need to emphasize the value of that education,” former NCAA executive vice president of regulatory affairs Oliver Luck said in a 2015 speech.

Newsom’s plan is widely supported in the California legislature but the NCAA is resisting, calling it unconstitutional and insisting that there should be a distinction between student and pro athletes.

African Americans made up more than 57 percent of male student athletes in basketball and nearly 47 percent in football, compared to 12.3 percent of the general population, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida 2015 report.

Race has been a factor in the debate over whether to pay college athletes, according to UMass Amherst political scientist Tatishe Nteta. Nteta devised a “racial resentment” survey that weighed variables like age, sex and interest in college sports and negative attitudes towards African-Americans. Nteta found that the interview subjects who held the most racial biases statistically opposed paying college athletes.

The No. 1 argument against paying college athletes is that they basically get a degree for free, but every metric shows that it is the white players, not the Black players, who end up with degrees, Harriot reported in The Root.

The average graduation success rate for college football players in 2016 was 68 percent. For white football players, it was 87 percent. College basketball was worse, graduating 53 percent of its Black players.

“If any other business in America had that much racial disparity in any of its industry practices, it would either be sued into oblivion or shut down by the government,” Harriot wrote. “But not on these special plantations, which get to do whatever they want.”