WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — If it seems like everyone is looking to cash in on March Madness, you’re probably right. However, there’s one clear exception: the players.
The NCAA is projected to earn roughly $1 billion in 2019 from TV rights for the “March Madness” NCAA basketball tournament alone. But players won’t see a cent of it. North Carolina Congressman Mark Walker feels that’s not fair. He’s introducing legislation that would allow NCAA athletes to profit from the use of their names and pictures.
“I believe in free markets. I think that is what makes America great,” said Walker.
The Republican says he’s introduced a bill that would allow college athletes to earn money from outside companies rather than their schools.
“If those folks want to go back home and work somewhere on the side to be able to have access to that likeness, they are allowed to do so,” added Walker.
Under current NCAA rules, student athletes receive scholarships but stand to lose eligibility if they sign endorsement deals. Walker says his bill would change that to provide income to star players and those who may never have the chance to play professionally.
But Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a sports management professor at George Washington University, says benefits should be strictly tied to education. She says adding outside money to the mix could lead to corruption — and daily distractions.
“Signing autographs, doing photo shoots or commercials these take hours,” she said.
Neirotti says scholarships are expensive and schools generally aren’t getting rich on athletics. She believes only a handful of schools are profiting while many are losing money.
Supporters of the bill say it provides opportunity for students. Opponents argue only a few players would benefit.