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Why the argument against college athletes getting paid is wrong

I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but supposedly former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow is adamantly against college athletes having the ability to receive compensation while they’re in school.

During a conversation on the ESPN show First Take with Stephen A. Smith & Max Kellerman, Tebow passionately expressed his disdain for the argument as to why student-athletes should be able to monetize their name and likeness.

You can imagine what the response was from many of the athletes who happened to come across this short clip below.

But before I go any further to explain why Tebow’s opinion is fundamentally wrong – I want to first elaborate a few key facts and findings.

The first being this, Tim Tebow will without a doubt go down as one of the greatest collegiate quarterbacks there ever was. Maybe not in the NFL, but his resume speaks volumes on the college level. Therefore, his opinion on this matter does carry some clout with it. Point blank period.

Secondly, fortunately for Tim Tebow, he doesn’t come from the same circumstances that a wide majority of Division-I student-athletes in the top-earning sports come from. And for those of you reading this who don’t know who the wide majority is, let me enlighten you…

According to Jemelle Hill’s recent article, “It’s Time for Black Athletes to Leave White Colleges“:

About 30 Division I schools each bring in at least $100 million in athletic revenue every year. Almost all of these schools are majority white—in fact, black men make up only 2.4 percent of the total undergraduate population of the 65 schools in the so-called Power Five athletic conferences. Yet black men make up 55 percent of the football players in those conferences, and 56 percent of basketball players.

So while he does have some credibility to speak on this topic, his opinion can’t and doesn’t stand for each and every student-athlete. Especially not the black athletes who, let’s be real, drive most of that revenue for these predominately white institutions.

Tim Tebow can have his opinion, but he can’t speak for the black student-athletes whose family literally can’t afford to come to see them play. He can’t speak for the student-athletes who struggle to feed themselves after the cafeteria closes and don’t have enough money to get food off-campus.

He can’t speak for the student-athletes who come from single-parent households, have several other siblings they are partially responsible for supporting and is the last chance of hope for a family who is banking on that athlete to make it to the pros.

Frankly, his credibility lacks in that area.

When I was playing Division-I basketball at Niagara University, I couldn’t even tell you how many times I went to sleep without eating because we got out of study hall or class when the cafeteria was closed and couldn’t buy food off-campus. And I came from a decent family situation. It wasn’t perfect, but my mother, unlike most of my other teammates could help me out from time to time.

There were many times I heard my teammates complain about their family situation or talk about how they had to send the little travel stipend they had back home to support their family or even their kids.

What it actually means to be a student-athlete is a far cry from what the perception is. There is a lot of sacrifices, oftentimes for little reward.

Even if you take economic inequality, privilege, and poverty off of the table, the simple fact of the matter is that student-athletes not only deserve to the opportunity to get paid for their labor, it is the right as a citizen.

I cannot think of any other job or position in this country that probits an individual from using their given name for profit. That is a basic right of the country that these athletes play in and the NCAA is benefiting in a number of ways off of a system that has oppressed and furthermore taken advantage of athletes for many years.

So if we really access Tim Tebow’s argument against paying players – Tebow is well within his right to not want to be paid for his talents as an amateur athlete.

But looking at the entire landscape of Divison-I sports and the top revenue-generating universities, this is an issue about human rights. This is an issue of oppression. This is an issue about what’s right and what’s just flat-out wrong.

And what the NCAA is doing in this situation is just wrong.

While some might feel allowing players to get paid will take away the purity and passion of sports in college, others might tell you to first just walk one day in the shoes of some of these athletes.

Take a deeper look at the backgrounds and situations these players come from.

Open your eyes to the reality of some of the struggles these athletes experience and just maybe you’ll see how big of a deal it is to be stripped of a basic human right as a student-athlete.