College sports are mass entertainment. It's time to fully reward players for their work
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The Texas A&M Aggies opened their 2013 football season on Aug. 31 without the most captivating player in the game. Three days earlier, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and Texas A&M had suspended Johnny Manziel, the sophomore quarterback who last season became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy, for the first half of the Aggies’ home opener against Rice University. Though the NCAA and the school determined that Manziel had not personally accepted money when he signed autographs earlier this year, they nonetheless slapped Manziel on the wrist for failing to realize that trinket brokers would surely profit from his signature.
Manziel’s alleged crime and televised punishment have teed up a debate that has been simmering for decades but is now more intense than ever. Why shouldn’t a player worth so much to his school, to his town and to the college-football brand be able to sign his name for money, just as any other celebrity has a right to do? How much longer can everyone else make money from college athletes like Manziel while the athletes themselves see their cash compensation capped—at $0?