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The Problem of College Athletes

College sports incorporate a wide scope of different activities, which engage thousands of students and attract attention of even a greater number of fans. Following the amateur code of conduct, athletes devote their time, physical efforts and health to the sports, which becomes professional only for the small proportion of them. Moreover, one can characterize the recent years as the ones drawing mass attention to the warning signs of college sports. The financial operations restricting athletes from obtaining financial rewards and contract issues along with the million fold dollar revenues obtained by colleges and universities are among the menaces facing the contemporary and future college and supposedly national stars. This paper investigates the problems of college athletes, simultaneously attempting to obtain relevant information regarding the enumerated issues and the violations of students’ rights. The analysis suggests that the college athletes are legal slaves, bound to educational institutions with their contracts and the amateur code of conduct. The performed analysis is useful for civil rights defenders as well as the representatives of the public in order to further emphasize the importance of the issue and assure its solving.

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The Problem of College Athletes

The US has a plethora of different universities and colleges, which develop approximately similar approaches towards sports, strictly dividing the amateur college sports from the professional ones. One may wonder about the reasons for such division because from the first glance the student athletes have almost no difference from the professional players. They play at similar fields and with practically the same rules and attract enormous crowds of fans, which are ready to give their money for having a ticket to the match of their favorite team or athlete. However, there is at least one striking difference, which drastically changes the situation, and it is the money they get for their work at the field or pitch. The core of the problem is that the professional athletes receive wages for devoting their time and efforts to sports. In contrast, the student athletes lack this possibility and perspective because of the limitations of the code of conduct regulating their behavior. One of such agreements is the 2010-11 NCAA Division I Manual, which limits student amateurship to the perspective of playing with purely non-financial interests and rewards only. Originally, such rules aimed at protecting the student athletes from the abuse of their human rights by different sport companies. Nevertheless, it seems that colleges and universities successfully substitute such companies having their student athletes as slaves engaged in sports. As a result, the public may observe the controversy of social rights and positions of people. Devoting almost the equal quantity of time and physical resources as the professional athletes, the student athletes receive no wages except for the possibility for having free education. Therefore, the public should raise the question about the corruption of the system of college and university sports. Fostered by this fact, the NCAA has separated itself from professional leagues with the aim of controlling the financial resources earned by students. The violation of human rights and the corruption in this system is contained in the fact that the student athletes generate annual millions of dollars revenues while not earning the money for their individual purposes with the exception of the payment for their education, which still differs significantly from the profits earned. The vivid example of this is a former student athlete of the University of Tennessee Arian Foster, who states that the team had an argument with its coach because they had nothing to eat after the match. Similarly, the athlete claims that despite playing the games at a stadium filled with 107,000 of individuals who paid for visiting the match, he came to his dormitory with the feeling of fatigue and hunger just to see an empty refrigerator. This case clearly demonstrates that the money earned by the athletes go to the universities’ financial schemes leaving the amateur athletes with no financial resources to satisfy even their basic needs. The aspects of the established system regulate this problem in the way that the student athletes may obtain education for free and receive different grants serving as discounts for education. Anyway, the major problem is that they spend plenty of time at fields and at the gym increasing their competitive abilities during trainings, which are the same as the routine of the professional athletes, but having factually no time for enjoying the education process as well as the grants mentioned above. The investigation of this aspect highlighted one more problem, which is students’ one-side agreements with universities and colleges for playing for them during the season. The issue becomes even more evident when a student athlete decides to change his educational institution, but he or she is to finish the season for the team mentioned in the contract (Kafka). Consequently, such students are kept as the hostages of the amateur college sports system, abusing their individual rights and bringing profits exclusively to the institutions of their academic affiliation. The most marked indicator of the amount of financial income is the fact that various sports corporations attempted entering the college sports market, but received a negative reply from the side of universities (Kafka). This situation is of no wonder because these universities fear losing their athlete slaves, which would see more benefits in becoming similar to or actually professional athletes and receiving wages for their sports activity. Consequently, colleges and universities openly abuse the terms of amateurism, which means playing for the love of sports and not the money, bringing it close to the professional performance. Additionally, those defending such state of things tend to compare the student athletes with the ancient Greek athletes taking part in sports for the sake of sports, whereas they were real professionals. In contrast, the students busy with specific administrative duties and having certain positions at universities receive their annual wages.

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The depicted circumstances lead the public to the question of the ratio behind the decision to pay one kind of students for their activity and refusing to do that for the other one. Such analysis also provokes the conclusion that the college sports are covered with the misconception of amateurism, which allows and further promotes abusing the student athletes and using their youth, talent and health for the fiscal advantages without any punishment. Overall, no one can even defend students from such perspective because they sign their amateur sports contracts themselves as a form of letters-of-intent making them slaves of their wishes to obtain a higher education and initially become famous without realizing the real state of affairs behind a seemingly attractive and promising career and academic prospects. Furthermore, the documentary Schooled: The price of College Sports mentions the words of the former president of NCAA, Myles Brand about the discussed issue. His answer that NCAA does not pay students “because they are amateurs” and they are amateurs “because we do not pay them” seems as an enclosed circle with no exit for students. Moreover, it aggravates the fact that the college athletes are abused by NCAA receiving financial resources from their sports performance without providing the athletes with the due necessities. The expert in this field fighting for students’ rights, Taylor Branch, argues that the problem of college sports is not about the money or education but is indeed connected with the breach of fundamental civil rights. Similarly, the athletic director of the University of Maryland, Kevin Anderson, compares the occupation of a student athlete with ones’ working for a living. One more disadvantage for the players is that certain students have a perspective of having their contract terminated in the case of dissatisfaction of the coach or the administration with one’s sports or academic results. As a consequence, universities and colleges may just throw the athlete away after using their skills and talents and receiving money for it. No wonder that the exposure of these aspects to the public evoked the numerous discussions of the need for the change of the status of the student athletes.

The performed analysis of the issue allows stressing the fact that the college sports system has to be changed in order to ensure the rights of the student athletes. One may propose various solutions including the introduction of wages, the perspective of becoming professionals, the sponsorship of sports corporations, and the adaptation of labor laws to college sports “amateurship”. For instance, the universities may pay a half of the received revenues from stadium ticket sells to their athletes, thus notably increasing their motivation to perform better. Likewise, educational establishments may organize a special association regulating a league, which presupposes guaranteeing a gradual transition of the most advanced student athletes to professional leagues. Such bridging would be a huge benefit for the individuals pursuing their careers in sports without the threat for professionals of being dismissed by former amateurs. Therefore, it is possible to solve the problems confronting the student athletes, but they require the assistance of the public in creating additional social pressure on educational institutions and NCAA in particular.

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Summarizing the presented information, the paper comes to a conclusion that college and university athletes feel the lack of public support aiming at ascertaining their individual and labor rights. Based on this, the performed investigation revealed that numerous educational institutions abuse the term “amateur” targeting at using their student athletes as slaves, training and performing for earning a living. The situation is worsened by the fact that despite colleges and universities obtaining enormous profits from the students’ participation in sports, the amateur athletes receive no wages or other financial benefits, which could serve as the incentives for the enhancement of their game performances or at least meet their daily needs. As a result, they are in a disadvantaged position regarding the professional athletes despite having no other differences but financial. Therefore, the national system of college and university amateur sports should not prevent the student athletes from becoming professional athletes and receive wages for their hard labor. This solution would drastically change the life of the student athletes increasing their motivation and activity, bringing college sports to a totally new level.