By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The time when NCAA student-athletes finally start getting paid for their image and likeness now seems sooner than later.
And you can thank Iowa senior point guard Jordan Bohannon, Rutgers guard Geo Baker and all the other students-athletes from multiple sports who refuse to let this issue fade away.
The student-athletes have had enough, even those who stand little chance of getting paid for their image and likeness, a player like Iowa offensive lineman Noah Fenske.
He shared his feelings on Twitter, and his message comes across loud and clear.
— Noah Fenske (@Big_Red_Fenske) March 18, 2021
Fenske appreciates what he has with a full scholarship, the free tuition and lodging, the endless amounts of free food and quality coaching and academic support.
He made sure to point that out in his post, but Fenske also explained why he agrees with the student-athletes who have launched the #NotNcaaProperty movement on social media, and with NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament set to start on Thursday.
“We are asking for the right to our NAME!” Fenske wrote. “Look I am an offensive lineman that hasn’t played much yet. I most likely wouldn’t make any money off the rule. But for teammates who come up from some incredible stories. For some players it’s truly their way out.”
Fenske calls it a double-standard how the NCAA and the Big Ten make massive amounts of money off the image and likeness of student-athletes, while student-athletes are required to sign a contract before each season that prohibits them from making money off their image and likeness.
And he’s right because it is a double standard, and any attempt to defend or justify the double-standard by pointing out all the perks and advantages that come with a full athletic scholarship is losing credibility and influence with more than just the student-athletes.
And I’ll be honest.
I didn’t pay much attention to this issue back when former UCLA men’s basketball player Ed O’Bannon filed a lawsuit in 2009 against the NCAA and the Collegiate Licensing Company, alleging violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act and of actions that deprived him of his right of publicity.
The biggest change for me now, besides the incredible amount of money involved, is that today’s student-athletes are more vocal about this issue, more organized, and more connected, thanks largely to the power and reach of social media.
Student-athletes are tired of being exploited in this age of huge television contracts and multi-million dollar coaching salaries, and they’re starting to organize a national movement in protest.
Coaching salaries have risen to obscene levels in some cases, and the amount of money generated by television, especially with football and men’s basketball, is staggering, and yet, the student-athlete, the ones who juggle sports and academics, and who put their well-conditioned bodies on the line in the spirit of competition are supposed to still be satisfied with the status quo?
That’s ridiculous, and selfish, and it shows a lack of judgment for the NCAA to think that student-athletes will continue to accept this business model when they’ve made it obvious that they won’t accept it and are willing to use the NCAA Tournament as a stage to promote their grievances.
Iowa is a No.2 seed and will face No. 15 seed Grand Canyon in the first round on Saturday in Indianapolis.
So Bohannon has a grand stage to promote his message for as long as Iowa stays alive in the tournament.
But even without the NCAA Tournament, Bohannon has a big stage on social media, and he knows how to use it to his advantage, as do other student-athletes.
He currently has his own podcast and his audience and reach is growing.
Bohannon has pushed the image-and-likeness narrative for a couple years, and now other student-athletes are embracing the movement.
So it’s not going away any time soon.
Life will eventually return to normal after the pandemic, and the money will start flowing again, and student-athletes will continue to fight for the right to profit off their image and likeness.
The NCAA at some point has to realize that this movement will only get stronger as the money continues to pour in and the rich get richer.
It’s time to pay student-athletes for their image and likeness simply because they deserve it.
The current system is outdated, and too one-sided at the expense of student-athletes.