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Rep. Cleaver to propose law requiring colleges to pay student-athletes

NCAA moving tournament games out of North Carolina in response to bathroom law
Posted at 10:09 PM, Nov 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-01 23:40:05-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Earlier this week, the NCAA announced that it would change its rules to allow student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.

The NCAA said modifications would be made in a "manner consistent with the collegiate model."

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat and former Kansas City, Missouri, mayor, is pushing to take the decision even further.

Cleaver wants federal legislation that would force colleges and universities to pay their student-athletes throughout their college careers. He says the student-atheltes deserve a greater share of the billions in revenue college athletics generate each year.

"They need to keep in mind that every time there's an intermission, it is for somebody to make money," Cleaver said. "The ad companies are making money. The companies that are paying for the ads are making money. The networks are making money. The schools are making money."

College sports is estimated to be a $14 billion industry.

Cleaver said it's been long enough that colleges and universities have horded the money earned through the student-athletes' blood, sweat and tears. He wants them to get their fair share.

"We're not talking about paying them the same kinds of salaries that professional football players and professional basketball players are earning, but we do think that they're being used," Cleaver said.

Some local parents with soon-to-be college athletes felt the same way.

"They do put their bodies through a lot for the game and for the college, so for them to have some sort of percentage or something back to them is wonderful and it just shows the appreciation with what our kids are going through," Sherryee Akinmoladun, a Grandview High School parent, said.

Especially for sports that don't offer a full-ride scholarship, the opportunity to take part in the revenue made from college sports appeals to parents.

"Everything is not guaranteed," another Grandview parent, Kim Graves, said. "Not every student-athlete gets a full scholarship with athletics, so I know that we're looking at multiple ways to be able to pay for my son's school. I think that's a positive and would actually help the entire family and what they're trying to do to help their child succeed to get to college."

Working with colleagues in Congress, Cleaver plans to draft a bill that requires colleges to pay student-athletes, but there are some tough questions to answer, including how much money athletes would get paid.

"It really depends on the schools," Akinmoladun said. "Some of our athletes go to the smaller schools, so it probably needs to be based off a percentage of what the schools are making, more so than a flat percent."

Cleaver said he does not want to create a competitive system, where top athletes only go to schools that pay the most money.

"Now, I think people will misconstrue what we're trying to do, if they think we're trying to pay athletes $200,000, $300,000 a year because we're not, but they are to get something," Cleaver said.

Cleaver said they will find a way to make it an equitable system and still ensure college athletes get paid.

Meanwhile, the NCAA is working to update its rules and hoping to implement the changes no later than January 2021.