Legal affairs: a professional athlete called under another name must be paid

One of my guiding principles as a labor lawyer is that if a person works, they should be paid for their work. I don’t believe in unpaid internships. An unpaid internship is simply an easement by another name. I don’t believe in volunteering to help complete a job at work if extra pay isn’t involved.

If your work is involved and a benefit is received by another party, that other party should pay you for the work you performed. It’s a simple proposition. And quite American too.

My interest is therefore always aroused when the question of the remuneration of “professional” NCAA athletes arises. I believe that any child who plays a sport that generates value for their school should receive a percentage of every dollar of value generated by their performance.

Notice that I wrote “dollar of generated value” and not “dollar of income”. This is because the value of an athlete’s performance to a school is not always adequately measured by the income generated by his participation in sport.

I am using the masculine pronoun here. I remain well aware that female athletes, especially in this state, generate millions of dollars of value for their schools. Have you ever heard of Paige Bueckers?

Feel free to replace “she” with “he” throughout this column. The principle stays the same.

I am addressing this topic today because once again, varsity athletes are undermining the ‘amateur’ defense used by varsity sports plutocracy to justify the billions they’ve earned from the talents of their class-contract athletes. global.

Last week, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (not exactly a stronghold of liberal thought) ruled against the NCAA and a number of its schools seeking to dismiss a lawsuit brought by college athletes who claim that they are “employees” entitled to wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

This decision follows the Supreme Court ruling last June determining that university athletes could not be prohibited from selling their names, images and likenesses for profit.

One of the claims in the lawsuit alleges that the defendant’s failure to pay athletes violates Connecticut’s minimum wage law. One of the complainants is a former tennis player at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.

Under NCAA rules, athletes are prohibited from being paid to participate in their sporting activities. However, member schools require that these so-called “student athletes,” as the NCAA prefers to call them, must prioritize participation in athletic activities over academic requirements. Schools can discipline “student-athletes” for planning pre-graduation courses if those courses conflict with a mandatory training schedule.

Athletes are also required to complete timesheets and participate in mandatory fundraising and community activities, which use timesheets to track actual participation.

Football players in major programs frequently devote more than 40 hours per week to compulsory sports activities. It sounds like a full time job to me.

As a result of the performance of their duties, these athletes generated $ 1.64 billion in total revenue for their schools in 2018. One billion.

NCAA and participating schools say they don’t have to pay athletes because athletes enjoy the “intangible benefits of” discipline, work ethic, strategic thinking, time management, leadership, goal setting and hard work. team “.

The judge of the Pennsylvania coal country did not buy this load of manure. He refused to close the case. He should be tried by next fall. I’ll keep you informed.

Eric Brown is a lawyer with offices in Connecticut. He can be reached at 888-579-4222 or online at

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