So California’s Fair Pay to Play Act, a bill permitting athletes at the state’s colleges and universities to seek endorsement deals and make money off the use of their names and likenesses without losing their eligibility or scholarships, became law yesterday. People have concerns!
Will it survive an inevitable gauntlet of well-funded legal challenges to take effect in far-off 2023? Will it, as ESPN’s resident chud Will Cain qualmed on Twitter, be “the beginning of the end of amateur sports”? (Spoiler alert: I don’t think the Fair Pay Police will be kicking in the door at your weeknight church league hoops games to force everybody to sign endorsement deals at gunpoint anytime soon.) Will states take the necessary next step of mandating direct pay to players and sending the fiction of “student-athletes” to hell forever?
To these, brain genius Darren Rovell would like to add another: Has anybody stopped to think about what a crime this might be against product endorsements?
At least, that’s the best I can do with it. But then again I am not a sports business master. You take a look, and see what you can come up with. Here are some tweets:
Oh no! Not sham endorsements!
Imagine that a local business owner—Bob, of Bob’s Mattress Dungeon, say—freely decides to give a young athlete a rich endorsement contract, which actually functions as a recruiting bonus for the business owner’s favorite college with a token local coupon-flyer ad thrown in. (You know, as boosters have been doing with sham “summer jobs” for as long as the NCAA’s amateurism scam has existed.) Who is harmed by this? Not the business owner: As long as the athlete agrees to attend the college, the business owner is getting their money’s worth. Not the athlete: In the absence of an actual aboveboard paycheck from the college, they’re getting something closer than zero to fair remuneration for their work. Who’s losing, here?
Again: The oil guys got what they wanted out of this transaction, and the athlete got a big payday. The loser, according to Rovell, is... oil? It did not receive an endorsement commensurate with the money spent! Why doesn’t anybody seem to care about what happens to the oil????
It’s cheating to pay more for a service than someone else might. When you leave a large tip at a restaurant, you’re cheating. You’re violating Business Ethics. And let’s not even get into the crimes you’re committing against the waitstaff’s interest in matriculation.
Goddammit, those Hyundais deserve a million bucks worth of endorsement. But now they can’t get it! Because all the endorsement money went to some punk wide receiver who cut a 15-second radio ad and went back to practice!
There’s no chance the horses are going to get $1.85 million worth of endorsements out of this deal.
And then when the Butthorse Falls Corn Mart is looking for some billboard space for their new $100,000 Kim Kardashian ad, there won’t be any. Because all the damn billboards are filled up with overpaid college athletes! And then nobody will know about the Kim Kardashian-endorsed limited-time discount deal on corn at the Butthorse Falls Corn Mart. The corn’s taking a fucking beating on this, and it isn’t damn fair.
It’s important to note, here and always, that boosters and interested companies have been finding ways lawful and un- to funnel money to elite college athletes for longer than Darren Rovell has been alive. What he’s complaining about is that under this new legal regime, they will do so in ways that disrupt what he sees as an otherwise perfectly rational market for endorsements. The athletes’ situations will be much improved. The boosters will go right on being rich and having money to blow on stupid shit. But the endorsements—the endorsements suffer in silence, unless a brave man dares speak for them.