Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Under Further Review: Separating Rights and Compensation

Stand-up comedy is predicated on the comedian pulling at the strings of people's insecurities, humility, and repression, which is kind of why every time NCAA president Mark Emmert takes the stage at a major conference or convention a comedy show breaks out. I know, I know. It doesn't sound logical. How can talking about an organization hinging its business on such archaic concepts be comical? Well, just as the NCAA always finds a dodge the ordinary and predictable, Emmert found a way to make his speech hilarious and today's stage was at the Sports Business Journal Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.

If you follow the Sports Business Journal on Twitter (@sbjsbd) or have been following the hashtag #sbjiaf, then you probably know a bit of what I'm saying here. Hilarity ensues. Seriously, if someone were just to Storify the parts of Emmert and the major conference commissioners answering questions, then we would have something better than anything that would be written on the topic.

One of the main points that Emmert was asked about was, obviously, the NCAA vs. Ed O'Bannon lawsuit. By now, if you are reading this space, then you know the basics and you know that it has the chance to change college athletics as we know it.

A big reason that the NCAA vs. O'Bannon lawsuit holds so much power is that it hits straight at the NCAA's amateurism clause. This amateurism clause, simply put, makes it illegal for NCAA athletes to profit off of their likeness. However, at the core of amateurism is denying athletes their basic civil and worker's rights. It keeps athletes from being acknowledged that they are employees of the school, which in turn keeps schools from having to pay athletes a salary for their services and, more importantly, be held liable in worker's compensation lawsuits and provide the necessary benefits like healthcare and job security (read: scholarship rights, in this case).

Here is what Emmert said on the idea of the compensation of NCAA athletes:

Forget for a second that these consecutive statements are contradictory -- contradiction is just what the NCAA does. Pay particular to the second quote, though, that's the troubling one. They know that making them employees, the athletes will be entitled to all of the benefits of employees which would include proper healthcare, proper rights like better scholarship structure, worker's compensation upon injury, and, eventually, some sort of payment.

All of these things are very different for each other, but they have all been lumped under the term "pay-for-play." In my opinion, it is the latest PR twist that the NCAA has put on the matter that has stretched on for years.

Pay-for-play hits at the heart of a simple question with complex answers: Should college athletes be paid for their services? Complexity is what the NCAA does best. Complexity means that people won't understand and the people who do understand will be divided. Complexity means slower dissolution of the status quo.

The problem with calling the issue "pay-for-play" is that it doesn't really hit the core issue which is the rights of the athletes. Calling it pay-for-play keeps the public divided and affords the NCAA the chance to sit back and watch the tussle in the court of public opinion while they themselves stay on the outer ring and avoid blame.

This is why instead of talking about the television revenues, the salaries of coaches and college presidents and athletic directors, and whatever other absurdly inflated number we can research, we need to look at the fundamental rights of the athletes. Their civil and worker's rights create grounds to stand on. Financial compensation will come down the road if rights are the base.

If people really want change to come about, then they need to look at the true purpose of amateurism. Do you really think that the NCAA cares if an athlete is receiving under-the-table benefits just because the athlete gets some gain? No. The NCAA cares because it proves that the athletes have market value, and market value kills their amateurism argument. If you don't believe that, then why are football players allowed to receive up to $500 worth of gifts from bowl games that they participate in?

This is why we need to separate rights from compensation. If there are no rights, there is no compensation, but the formula doesn't necessarily stand true when flipped. Inherently, people need rights to be compensated in a fair manner. If not, we are brought back to the current situation that the NCAA finds itself in.

Rights. Compensation. Welfare of the athletes. Who wants to think about that when we're all laughing at the comedy show that's unfolding before our eyes. Wait, shhhh, grab your popcorn. I heard the conference commissioners are even more hilarious than Emmert.


Kevin Rossi is a junior Drexel Sport Management major with minors in Communications and Business Administration. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to President. Currently, Kevin is also the Drexel editor for Kevin recently finished his second co-op with Temple University in their Athletic Communications office. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

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