Why Is Paying College Athletes Viewed so Negatively by Some Fans?

Written by Kassandra Ramsey

Photographer Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

· NCAA,College Athlete NIL,College basketball

Many college sports fans support amateurism. They support it even when it defies all manners of common sense and logic. This was seen in various fans' reactions to the injury that freshmen phenom Zion Williamson suffered in the UNC/Duke game on February 20, 2019. Leading up to and during that game, fans witnessed the sham of amateurism play out right in front of them. Fans saw the amount of money everyone is allowed to make, except the athletes. Additionally, fans witnessed how quickly an athlete can suffer an injury that could be detrimental to their potential professional careers.

However, many fans have still chosen to continue to ignore the injustices of the college sports system. Such fans willfully support the NCCA's theory of amateurism. They act as though college athletes cannot be compensated above their scholarships and remain college athletes. They act as though making money and attending college are mutually exclusive. Such fans completely ignore the fact that every other student is able to attend college and make money at the same time. Why are fans so willing to ignore the unfairness of the college sports system?

UNC/Duke Game is the Perfect Example of Why College Athletes Should be Compensated Above a Scholarship

The UNC/Duke game provided a total picture of the injustices that plague the college sports system. The game exposed amateurism for the farce that it is. First, the exorbitant ticket prices proved that amateurism is a farce. The cheapest ticket sold for almost $3,000. This is the ticket range for the Super Bowl. How does an "amateur" sport in which people only engage for the love of the game reach $3,000 for the cheapest ticket"?

Second, the injustices to the athletes manifested itself when Duke University freshman, Zion Williamson, sprained his knee just seconds into the game. Williamson, who is slated to be the number one NBA draft pick, suffered a minor knee injury. Even though his injury is minor, it still showed just how quickly an athlete's career can take a turn for the worst. Furthermore, it showed the risk that college athletes take while being precluded from earning the full value of their work. His injury made every reasonable person ask one simple question. Is it really fair for college athletes to subject themselves to injury while essentially playing for free in a game where coaches other sports administration officials make millions?

The answers to these questions are relatively simple. College basketball and sports, in general, are not amateur. The fact that the tickets sold for thousands of dollars show that there is nothing amateur about DI men's college basketball. Also, it is not fair to preclude college athletes from making money for their athleticism above a cost-of-attendance scholarship. Even with all of this coming to light, there are still fans who refuse to acknowledge amateurism for the sham that it is.

After the UNC/Duke Game Fans Still Support Amateurism...Why?

In the wake of Williamson's injury, many took the opportunity to point out the unfairness of the college sports system. People criticized the fact that college athletes give their all and risk a career-ending injury for very little compensation when compared to the billions of dollars their labor generates. Even current NBA players called out the system and urged Williamson not to return to college sports.

Contrarily, various fans supported the college sports system and voiced vastly different opinions.

Supporters argued that a scholarship is enough compensation. Additionally, supporters argued that if athletes want to be paid they should not to go to college. They suggest that such athletes go overseas and play professionally until they are eligible for the NBA. However, those arguments are flawed for several reasons.

Flaws in the Argument Against Paying College Athletes

One flaw is that those arguments support the false narrative that college athletes should have to choose between pursuing their education or receiving the full value for their athleticism. Athletes should not be forced to choose between education and compensation. They should be able to pursue both. The NBA created a new program in its G-League for basketball players who may not wish to attend. However, even that forces players to choose between education and compensation. Why does anyone think that choice is fair? That choice is not fair. It is possible for athletes to pursue education and athletics at the same time. A new day is coming as basketball players will soon have that option with the creation of the Historical Basketball League (HBL). The HBL's aim is to educate and compensate its players.

Another flaw is the assumption that potential college athletes do not want to go to college. This simply is not true. For example, Zion Williamson stated that even if the NBA did not have the one-and-done rule, he still would have opted for college. This totally dispels the notion that top collegiate athletic talent does not want to be in college. Besides, why does attending college have to mean that athletes have to give up all rights to profit off their athleticism? At the very least, college athletes should be able to profit of off their own name, image, and likeness. Athletes should be able to seek and accept endorsement deals. How would the ability to do that harm the institution? If athletes were allowed to do so, they could receive more value for their athleticism and it would not cost the schools nor the NCAA a dime.

Possible Reasons Fans Continue to Support Amateurism

When considering the totality of the college sports system, it is really difficult to understand how anyone can continue to support the current system. How can fans, who live in a capitalistic society support a system that keeps others from realizing their full economic potential? Perhaps some fans really believe in amateurism. Perhaps some fans harbor an implicit bias against the very athletes they love to watch every March Madness and Bowl Season. Regardless of the reason, it is time for the system to change. In order to effectuate change, all fans must be willing to open their minds an acknowledge amateurism for the sham that it is.