Lawmakers Debate Paying College Athletes for Playing Sports

Lawmakers Debate Paying College Athletes for Playing Sports

CREATED Mar 26, 2014

by Jason Lamb

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Among the many debates state lawmakers are tackling on Capitol Hill is one that is increasingly gaining national attention: should college athletes be paid to play sports?

Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) is backing a bill that would do just that.

Under his plan, public Division I universities would contribute one percent of its total athletic profits to a trust.  When student athletes graduate, they could apply for a one time grant from that trust.

Parkinson says it's only fair to compensate players who make money for their universities, and sometimes leave their athletic programs with lifelong injuries, yet are banned from even signing an autograph for money.

"If you remove the student athletes from the equation of this revenue that's being generated in the billions – with a ‘B,' then you have revenue that's being generated in the zeroes – with a ‘Z,' Parkinson said.

The UT system spoke out against the plan this week in a hearing, saying students already receive full-ride scholarships. University representatives also said Parkinson's bill could put universities directly at odds with NCAA regulations.

"It is a clear and articulated violation for any student athlete to be attending a school where there is an understanding upon graduation that you'll be compensated in any way," said Lou Hanneman with the University of Tennessee System. He was speaking at a House Education Subcommittee meeting.

Coincidentally, Wednesday the National Labor Relations Board gave football players at Northwestern University the go-ahead to unionize -- arguing that the athletes are part of a commercial enterprise that generates huge profits because of their labor.

Parkinson says his bill is an effort to reduce the motivation for athletes to unionize, which he says could eventually cost universities nationwide millions of dollars more than the fund his bill proposes.

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