There is an old rule in the U.S. Senate – “Every reasonable thought must be answered by an idea inversely idiotic.” Senator Richard Burr (North Carolina) proves that axiom true with the tweet below:
If college athletes are going to make money off their likenesses while in school, their scholarships should be treated like income. I’ll be introducing legislation that subjects scholarships given to athletes who choose to “cash in” to income taxes. https://t.co/H7jXC0dNls
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) October 29, 2019
From this point forward, let’s refer to that rule as the Burr Razor.
The problem with Burr’s idiotic counter measure to the NCAA’s acknowledgement that college athletes should be able to profit from their own likeness is that the NCAA is steadfast in its refusal to classify student-athletes as employees.
The NCAA reiterated again today in the document that spurred Burr’s tweet that students are not employees. Because the students are not employees, the scholarships are not income. That seems fairly straight forward.
What also seems straight forward is that coaches and administrators make obscene amounts of money for participating in what the NCAA would like everyone to believe is a purely educational endeavor. The compensation for student-athletes and their families is that they do not have to pay tuition or room and board. They also receive a cost of attendance stipend.
That’s a pretty good deal. Nothing wrong with an education that doesn’t come with a massive student loan bill with the degree. And some of those stipends are more than pocket change.
What isn’t quite as obvious is that Burr’s proposed tax unfairly penalizes African-Americans who comprise the vast majority of the student athletes who might be able to monetize their image through endorsements. There are outliers like Tim Tebow, Baker Mayfield and Grayson Allen, white athletes who forged a fanbase worthy of monetization, but look at the Heisman finalists and first team All-Americans in basketball and tell me that race doesn’t enter into this somehow.
I understand people who have not thought through the inequity of refusing to allow athletes to profit from their gifts in the same way music, engineering, or business students can, but for a United States senator to threaten legislation as a response to the NCAA’s evolution toward fairness and sanity, well, that’s just about what we expect from politicians.
Will the music, engineering, and business students who are on scholarship while being paid for their gifts be taxed? We should ask Burr the same question we have asked the NCAA for a generation – what makes athletes unique other than the amount of wealth they generate for schools and administrators?
Why are athletes a sub-class for whom rules are always different?
And it’s always worth asking politicians whether it’s worth leaping headlong into a debate they don’t understand and cannot win to earn the votes of a few thousand racist boobs?