“Off the Rim” is a column by Sarah Ko about basketball.
After years of deliberation, the NCAA finally ruled that student athletes in all divisions will be permitted to use their name, image and likeness for endorsement deals beginning in 2023. While this may benefit and compensate numerous college athletes for their long hours and strenuous work, the NCAA’s ruling could do more harm than good for athletes who are not educated on the specifics of finances.
It’s a recurring problem many millennials face. Millions of post-college graduates don’t know how to pay their taxes, what APY stands for or what a 401k is. And they can’t be blamed for “grown-up” ambiguous acronyms at such a young age.
It’s no secret that Division I male athletes dominate in popularity. In football’s offseason, college men’s basketball reigns as the favorite sport among others. Notable freshmen straight from high school are pinned with high expectations as first round draft picks. They are then forced to sign agents and managers due to their sudden immense fame.
Even though these athletes spend a year in college before entering the draft, they use that year to focus on developing their athletic skills, and with their busy schedules filled with mid-day practices, they hardly have the time to learn about the financial logistics. Thus, high schools need to implement these teachings to better prepare their draft prospects.
California’s Department of Education does not regulate that finance classes must be taught in schools. Thus, taking courses are considered an extracurricular activity, but if you're already training as a full time athlete as a student, is it possible to take extra classes?
Not only that, but the influx of influence culture via social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram have changed the way young athletes are valued. Only recently are athletes being equated to celebrities and influencers. Before, they were famous for solely their craft, but now they’re known to branch out into other fields and excel at those as well. The combination of their growing influence and the way social media democratizes value in their popularity reflect negatively among student athletes.
Of course, the NCAA’s decision is a huge step forward for college athletes since they are finally able to earn their share, but overnight millions aren’t everything. The NCAA’s alleged reformation actually creates a dangerous frontier of sports influencers and could eventually sabotage these young stars.
A prime example: Lonzo Ball.
Known for his terrible shooting form, but more importantly his family’s substandard apparel and shoe company, The Big Baller Brand, California-native Lonzo is actually considered a victim of his own brand. Virtually having no control over a brand that was built around his “name, image and likeness,” he was cheated and lied to by people he was close to. This could’ve been avoided if Ball had the knowledge to take care of his business and finances. Instead he innocently placed his trust in his family, friends and agents, not knowing they would deceive him.
However, Ball was lucky enough to have access to some resources. Those who do not have Ball’s resources are plunged into an even deeper hole. Traditional high school and college freshmen education lack the useful coursework that would teach students how to maneuver their financials in “the real world.” Thus, those who do not have this knowledge and are unable to sign agents to help them — or in most cases, not — have absolutely no idea on how to stay financially in tune.
Imagine your 18-year-old self, you’re suddenly given a million-dollar contract and all your friends told you that you’ve made it. But a few weeks pass by, and you receive a letter from the IRS telling you to properly report your income taxes. What do you do? And do you even know where to start?
I most certainly do not.
And this thought is not a figment of my imagination. Senator Richard Burr already threatened to impose income taxes on endorsed student athletes.
How do you expect an 18-year-old to know how to file taxes when they lack the knowledge and support system, especially when sports have been their whole life?
With the size of contracts being signed, it’s natural to forget that college athletes range from 18-22 years old, a time when most young adults are still trying to discover themselves, let alone figure out how to become fully independent.
What’s even scarier is that the NCAA’s decision will inherently affect an even younger generation of athletes: breakout high school stars. Top basketball recruits such as Josh Christopher, Jalen Green and Cade Cunningham are already growing in fame and posed as sports influencers for their young age, talent and ability to draw in a younger consumer market.
Thus a pattern ensues where inexperienced breakout athletes are thrust into a world they are unfamiliar with, forced to hire agents and managers to supposingly help carry that load but then are at risk of being taken advantage of, much like Lonzo Ball.
Every young athlete will be forced to do something that is deemed as most people’s nightmare: growing up. Though eventually essential for everyone, people must keep in mind that these “influencers” are still kids trying to figure out who they are and what they personally value, but they are surrounded by people who take advantage of their monetary value. Without an education system that can help these student athletes, the NCAA might as well have ruled against endorsement deals.
“Off the Rim” runs every Thursday.