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The Nature of Amateurism

Sam Keller

The recent string of lawsuits arising over NCAA player licensing has raised significant questions about the nature of what it means to be a college athlete, and furthermore, what it means to be an amateur athlete. The pending decisions have the potential to reshape the landscape of college sports and the definition of the word amateur. In order to fully understand the nature of what it means to be “amateur,” a dive into the origins of the word is most appropriate. Amateur comes from the French amateur meaning “lover of” and the latin amator meaning “lover, which is oddly coincidental when you think of amateur porn like what they show on watch my gf as it’s lovers making love.” Essentially, amateurism is participating for the love of the game rather than for compensation, mainly monetary. In America, all college athletes are amateur athletes. They aren’t allowed to receive monetary compensation for playing their respective sport.

Universities, though, have found loopholes in order to entice star athletes to choose their program in the form of scholarships. The NCAA considers these scholarships payment for the athlete to attend classes rather than to play sports, which is why they are allowed. Although college athletes are still considered amateur, they still receive a significant amount of non-monetary perks. Student-athletes receive equipment, clothes, tutors, academic advisors, trainers, etc. on top of all school related costs (tuition, books, housing). While these athletes are not getting paid directly, they are still benefitting handsomely from their ability to play a sport. That being said, the NCAA has very stringent rules concerning the relationships coaches are allowed to have with players in terms of providing them with anything of value. This carries over into recruiting as well.

Opening up collegiate athletes to direct or indirect compensation would jeopardize, if not completely destroy, the integrity of the NCAA. It would ruin the last pure (sort of) arena of sports in the United States.

For argument’s sake, lets say the class action lawsuit brought by former Nebraska QB Sam Keller is decided in favor of the players. This sets a precedent that every time an image of any collegiate athlete (in any sport) is used for marketing, sales, or promotion, that respective player must be compensated. Even contemplating this scares me. Where do you start? Where do you stop? Would it be necessary to pay the third string center who appears in the background of a promotional video for two seconds? There is no cap on who could possibly get paid, and if a cap was implemented the uncompensated parties would probably bring further suits. Furthermore, how would it effect recruiting and player/coach relationships? Now that the players are not amateur athletes, would the coaches be able to lure them to their universities with monetary compensation packages? The bottom line is allowing players to receive monetary compensation for playing the game would blur the lines between amateur and professional sports to the point where the two couldn’t be distinguished.