OPINION: Community college athlete profitability rights are long overdue

Think of what you can buy for $2,700. 

That would just about cover a new phone and yearly phone bill, a high-end computer or even a used car. According to ValuePenguin, the average annual cost of groceries for a single person is $2,641. 

That much money can go a long way, right?

Now imagine you’re a student-athlete at the local community college. Just because of your involvement in athletics, you’re void from that potential $2,700. 

The $2,700 comes from the estimated value of a student-athlete if they were to capitalize on advertisements on Instagram, according to studies from the SB 206 working group – a collaborative body made up of California community college education professionals, athletes and economists working in the interest of student-athletes. In other words, this is the money available if an athlete became an internet influencer.

You still have rent, textbooks, car insurance and a phone bill to pay just like everyone else. 

That money can make all the difference, but because of the current policy in place preventing athletes from capitalizing on marketing opportunities, community college student-athletes cannot maximize their worth.

The fact that student-athletes at the community college level, who generally do not receive any scholarships or endorsements, cannot make any money off their name or likeness is absurd.

Thankfully, progress is being made in the right direction for college athletes. The Fair Play to Play Act was passed and even more legislation is in the works. By 2023, student-athletes will be able to profit off of their name, image and likeness at California four-year universities thanks to the Fair Pay to Play Act.

Although California passed legislation involving four-year university athletes, they failed to include players at the two-year level. Luckily for the latter party, a working group dedicated to bring the same rights to the excluded athletes was established earlier this year. 

Findings like the average worth of an athlete on social media wouldn’t be possible without the SB 206 committee, assembled for analyzing data and recommending laws for the California legislature.   

“The NCAA and the NAIA [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics] are taking money away from athletes, especially at a community college level,” San Bernardino Valley College track and field runner Taylor DeBenedictis said. 

DeBenedictis, along with a few other California community college athletes, is an active member of the SB 206 committee. There, he is able to give a current perspective on the issue of profitability at the community college level.

“There is a different set of standards in community colleges, but there is also a different financial bracket,” DeBenedictis said. 

One of the disparities between a university athlete and a community college athlete is their benefits – or lack thereof. 

University athletes are often brought to schools on scholarships and given free equipment, travel and food. Community college athletes still pay fees to play at their college year-round. Furthermore, at a local level, not a single California Community Colleges athlete is on athletic-based scholarship.

Athletes are being abused at every level. The Power Five conferences generate $2.3 billion in profit annually, according to USA Today. None of the money makes it into the players’ pockets. Even worse, the money gets into the hands of organizations like the NCAA who work to prevent the advertisement of college athletes as individuals. 

At both the community and four-year level, athletes are restricted from having a profitable, autonomous life like any other student. More so the case with community college athletes, where there are no substantial benefits that come with being an athlete at their schools.

The monetary return colleges give to students, especially at the community college level, is a joke. Change is coming in 2023, but it seems tardy at this point.

Butte College quarterback Bryan Harper, a SB 206 working group participant, envisions a much more player-friendly environment in the next few years leading up to the activation of the Fair Pay to Play Act.

“I hope we can get athletes more rights, but obviously there are obstacles to consider,” Harper said. “The infrastructure of community colleges and how they will handle [player name, image and likeness] is something the working group has been talking about.” 

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