On April 18, the structure of European soccer was forever changed. Twelve of the world’s most elite soccer clubs announced intentions to create a new league, dubbed the “Super League."
The league was modeled after American sports leagues, such as the NFL and NBA, and would significantly increase the revenue each club received annually.
However, the move was widely unpopular among fans. Opponents took to social media and the streets to protest. The outrage was so immense that a mere 48 hours after its announcement, nine clubs pulled out — effectively halting the change.
One phrase routinely cited by fans was, “created by the poor, stolen by the rich.” To fans, their game was being robbed by wealthy club owners looking to pad their pockets.
To some, this action of greed and the thought of placing controlling interests over those of fans and athletes remind us of another sports league: the NCAA.
The NCAA might market itself as an organization giving athletes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to earn their college degrees for free, but it is also a billion-dollar industry constantly looking to maximize its profits.
The players in the system are unable to use their platforms as college athletes for financial purposes and are barred from other ventures, such as holding jobs or even profiting off of their social media channels.
Essentially, the players' names and likenesses are under the control of the NCAA which, in the meantime, profits off their athletic achievements.
This presents several issues. We hear of stories like former University of Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier. Napier, who led the Huskies to the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball championship, revealed after the championship game he went to bed most nights “starving” because he was unable to afford food.
Meanwhile, Napier’s exciting play during the NCAA tournament captivated viewers and was certainly a significant reason for the $700 million the NCAA pocketed in revenue that year.
In response to this issue, many proponents of amateurism suggest that athletes can earn their paychecks once they turn professional after college.
However, that scenario is often not feasible. Fewer than 2 percent of college athletes go pro, meaning that college athletics will be their only chance to market themselves.
Progress is being made in the form of a name, image and likeness (NIL) bill in Congress that would allow college athletes to market their name, image and likeness for financial compensation. However, NCAA President Mark Emmert has indicated he will not act unless Congress approves federal legislation mandating the NIL bill be passed.
Four states have already passed laws that will go into effect on July 1 allowing players to earn money from non-university sources, such as endorsement deals.
However, North Carolina has not seen progress with any type of NIL legislation, despite support by college coaches.
At UNC, athletic director Bubba Cunningham has voiced his skepticism toward NIL legislation but fully supports maximizing player potential, making the statement:
“While I do have reservations about name, image and likeness, and what it means to college athletics, I want to do everything I can possibly do to help our students improve their brand and potentially improve their opportunity for additional opportunities when they finish their school activities.”
Recently, UNC has taken steps to further market its players. This month, the school announced the creation of a group licensing program for former basketball and soccer athletes. Over 100 former players are a part of the program, including Tyler Hansbrough, Sean May and Mia Hamm.
These players will be able to market their name, image and likeness through the school, allowing them to profit off items such as merchandise and jersey sales in their name. This program displays a future model for how NIL legislation could operate, giving hope for college athletes in the future to profit for their own gain.
It will be up to the NCAA to put the interests of student athletes above their own greed.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.