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Zion Williamson Incident Highlights NCAA Issues

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There has been a firestorm of attention surrounding Duke basketball player Zion Williamson since an incident on the court last Wednesday that caused his foot to blow right through a pair of Nike PG 2.5 basketball shoes. The image of the players entire foot sticking out of the bottom of his shredded shoe went totally viral and has brought up many questions regarding the sacrifices NCAA athletes have to make when they choose to play in college.

While Williamson will only miss a few games, it has opened an old conversation: what do incidents like this say about the well-being of student athletes? Should student athletes’ risk their potentially lucrative futures in professional sports for a few years in a college program? What does this say about the NCAA? Star players like Zion certainly risk a lot when they step onto the court, and if they sustain a serious injury; they might as well throw their dreams of professional sports into the garbage with their broken shoes.

        Given the obvious risk that players put themselves in for their college programs, they must be rewarded somehow by their colleges or the NCAA, right? Nope. Actually, the NCAA famously places a plethora of regulations on student athletes. The most notable ones are the regulations preventing student athletes from being compensated for their skills or likenesses. They prevent athletes from being paid to play their sport, from being given any type of prize for winning a competition or receiving any type of so called “special benefit”. In the past few years athletes have even lost their eligibility for making YouTube channels.

Yet, these athletes bring millions of dollars to the institutions they play for and for the NCAA (who brought in over $1 billion dollars last year) but receive absolutely nothing in return for their hard work and dedication. They actually lose a lot when they choose to play in college. They get nothing but the “pride” and “accomplishment” they get from playing for their program.

Some might argue, “But student athletes can get scholarships!” Yes, SOME athletes do earn SOME scholarship, but not every single one does. Often times there are only a few scholarships reserved for each team, and many players get absolutely nothing. Plus, those scholarships don’t do much for paying for food or gas (its actually an NCAA violation if they get money for this). Not that playing a sport in college isn’t a great and unforgettable opportunity. As a student athlete myself, I feel a tremendous amount of pride for my school and I personally love every moment I get to compete for it. But the stringent regulations put forth by the NCAA are sometimes too much to handle and makes some athletes feel exploited.

        Now, I do not say that every athlete should be compensated for their participation in a college sport. I think it would be a very difficult task for college athletic departments to start paying every one of their athletes. But, student athletes should undoubtedly be allowed to earn money for their likenesses. Key word, “their”. What does the NCAA care if athletes receive so called “special benefits”? It’s their special benefit to earn. If a college athlete is offered a job at a sporting goods store for their expertise in a specific sport, aren’t they still working to earn that money? Isn’t it THEIR expertise that got them the job, not the NCAA’s?

        If there is anything that the Zion Williamson incident should say to the NCAA; its that their athletes deserve more. Athletes eat, sleep and breathe their sports, and their hard work brings the NCAA billions. If anything is certain, it’s that the rights of NCAA athletes NEED to be reevaluated.

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