Meanwhile, College Athletes Struggle to Gain Rights to Their Own Names, Images and Likenesses (NILs)

By Ken Reed

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (aka March Madness) has been a smashing entertainment success to date. The games have truly been Mad. Double digit seeds advancing, great finishes, amazing plays! The joy of victory and the agony of defeat. It’s got it all.

Well, who’s creating this supreme product? The athletes, whose all-out effort has been nothing short of inspiring. Yes, coaches are part of the product on the court, but it’s the athletes who are giving us their blood, sweat and tears (literally).

CBS and Turner will pull in more than $1 billion in TV ad revenue this tourney. The NCAA and the various schools and conferences will get huge pay days. Meanwhile, the players get boxed lunches and some swag bags.

The latest example of the commercialization of college sports comes from the Michigan State Spartans, who were eliminated in the First Four play-in round of the NCAA tourney. The Michigan State athletic department announced a five-year sponsorship with Rocket Mortgage. The sponsorship means the basketball team will now be known as the “MSU Spartans Presented by Rocket Mortgage.

How cute. However, the players on the “MSU Spartans Presented by Rocket Mortgage” are still prevented from profiting from benign activities such as signing calendars at the local sporting goods store for two hours.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., isn’t amused. Murphy introduced legislation in February that would allow college athletes to make money from their NILs.

“This (the new MSU sponsorship) is not a joke. I thought it was, but it’s not,” tweeted Murphy.

“The corruption of college sports is vomit inducing. Coaches can sign million dollar endorsement deals. College teams are now NAMED AFTER CORPORATIONS. But god forbid we pay the athletes a dime. Because they’re ‘amateurs.’”

Here’s hoping Murphy’s legislation is successful.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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