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College athletes: should they be paid for their production?

by | Oct 10, 2016 | Unpaid Wages

There’s been a high-profile debate around college sports for a few years now: Should athletes be paid?

It’s a complicated question. Recently, a former University of Southern California (USC) football player sued the NCAA, claiming college athletes are employees, and should be paid.

The player is arguing in a class-action lawsuit that the NCAA violated his rights by not paying players minimum wage for their hours worked. College athletes are unpaid, and the athlete contends that between practice and games, the NCAA owes him wages for both hours worked and overtime.

Which party benefits most from a college athlete’s participation?

The Los Angeles Times quotes the lawsuit, stating, “Plaintiff was repeatedly paid a substandard wage insofar as he was denied full pay for all hours worked, including overtime pay, and was frequently permitted to work without receiving required minimum wage payments.”

The NCAA contends that players are not employees, but student athletes taking part in an extracurricular activity.

On the flip side, the player and his attorneys argue that NCAA sports are big businesses making money on the performance of their athletes. The lawsuit is seeking unpaid wages and overtime, plus additional damages under this argument.

The court has yet to rule on whether college athletes ‘qualify’ as employees

Both sides present a compelling case, arguing their sides based on their interpretation of employment law.

From the player’s point of view, he and his teammates spend countless hours on the field. The NCAA certainly makes money off games, and the players are the primary performers.

However, players are enrolled in school. They are students – some of whom are attending on scholarships. You could argue that players are electing to take part in an activity open to all students, and should not expect compensation in return.

So what do you think? Are college athletes “employees” entitled to hourly wages and overtime, or are they just like any other college student?

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