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Shouldn’t college athletes benefit from their names, likenesses?

Rationally thinking marketing executives from any American company wouldn’t even consider running a high-profile ad campaign that used a celebrity’s name and image without duly compensating that public figure. Doing so would run expressly afoul of state and federal laws and subject an infringer to monetary and other penalties.

Why should things be different where well-known college athletes are concerned?

Let’s just consider two venerable Los Angeles-based institutions to make a point, namely USC and UCLA. Both those schools have storied athletic traditions, with their university teams playing in packed stadiums before crowds willing to pay premium ticket prices. The schools receive additional revenues through televised outlets and, importantly, massive marketing efforts fueled by connections to their top-tier players.

Many of those athletes command pure celebrity status not dissimilar to that commanded by A-list media celebrities in the entertainment world.

And they get paid nothing for the liberal use of their names, images and likenesses.

Is that fair? Is it even rational?

Many athletes think not, and have railed against college sports’ governing body for years, charging the NCAA with hypocrisy and crass exploitation. Division 1 schools across the country make millions off their athletes, with the latter getting nothing in return.

Lawsuits have been filed to challenge that, with one currently ongoing in a federal court.

Ex-university chancellor, federal government principal and now NCAA Commission Chair Condoleezza Rice is closely watching that case at its appeals stage. She is especially attuned (as noted in one recent national news report) to the issue of whether athletes should be paid deferred compensation by schools that use them to make money.

She favors that outcome, and strongly so, saying that the NCAA needs to make equitable changes once a legal framework comes better into focus.

“[A]thletes are going to have to be able to benefit,” she says. “I think everybody can see that.”

The issue is both hot and pronounced, and something that the NCAA will undoubtedly have to squarely face and resolve in the near future. We’ll keep readers timely posted concerning any material updates.

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