The sand is shifting in college sports. I’ve written previously how it would behoove college coaches and administrators to go ahead and adopt pro-athletes policies now before those policies are forced upon them by an angry public, and more evidence of the public’s shifting attitudes came in on Thursday.
The Washington Post partnered with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell to poll the opinions of adults on the issue of compensation for college athletes. And the results may surprise you, but they shouldn’t.
A group of 1,000 adults preserved a slight majority — 52 percent — that stated college basketball players should not be paid a salary and that a full scholarship was enough. But when the question changed to if athletes should be allowed to profit off their name, image and likeness (NLI) on the open market, a full two-thirds thought they should.
Not surprisingly, opinions were split largely across racial and political lines. Fifty-four percent of blacks thought athletes should be paid a salary, and 89 percent believed they should be allowed to profit off their NLI. Compare that to 31 percent and 60 percent of whites, respectively.
A 2013 University of Pennsylvania study of 77 Division I programs ran found that 57.1 percent of football players and 64.3 percent of basketball players were black.
Here were two typical responses culled from the 1,000 adults asked:
Dawson Gaymon and Theresa Melki represent opposing viewpoints on each side of the divide. Gaymon, a 54-year-old water department employee in Summerton, South Carolina, thinks athletes should get paid.
“The schools are making an awful lot of money, and the coaches are making millions and millions of dollars, and they’re [the players] the ones bringing in the money, really,” said Gaymon, who is black.
Melki, a 38-year-old nurse from Boston, disagreed.
“The whole reason they go to college is to get an education, and a scholarship should be enough,” said Melki, who is white. “They shouldn’t be paid to play football.”
Forty-one percent of self-identified sports fans supported paying athletes a salary, slightly above the 38 percent of the full 1,000 adults asked. Somewhat surprisingly, political independents were most in favor (45 percent) of paying salaries, ahead of Democrats (42 percent) and Republicans (30 percent). The age group most in favor of salaried athletes was those in their 40’s (48 percent), followed by 18-to-29 year olds (44 percent). Seniors aged 65 and older were least in favor at 30 percent.
Somewhat frustratingly, the Post-UMass poll did not provide a larger breakout of opinions on permitting NLI payments, which polled significantly higher across the board than straight salaried payments.