In a post last week I mentioned a fascinating recent article in The Atlantic magazine on the history and often hypocrisy of the NCAA revealed the role workers’ comp played in the history of college athletics. As it turns out, the term “student-athlete” came into play in the 1950s when the widow of a student who died playing football in Colorado for the Fort Louis A&M Aggies brought a worker’s compensation claim for death benefits. Part of the ruling was based on the argument that, “the college did not receive a direct benefit,” from the athletic program – a description that would be difficult to use today.
Under Wisconsin worker’s compensation law,the value of an employee’s meals and lodging expenses become part of their average weekly wage for purposes of compensation. These items are provided to scholarship collegiate athletes, in addition to their paid tuition.
While some may see the term “student-athlete” as having a paternalistic or even sentimental notion, the nature of modern collegiate athletics suggest otherwise. With mega-deal television contracts, huge endorsement deals with corporate sponsors, ticket sales, concessions, and host of other profit-making ventures, the fact that student-athletes cannot receive compensation can appear hypocritical on the surface. (A counter-point response, however, is that such compensation may not be feasible, given the amount of money an athletic department and university must spend to maintain and upgrade all of their athletic teams and facilities).
Under Wisconsin worker’s compensation law, the value of an employee’s meals and lodging expenses become part of their average weekly wage for purposes of compensation. These items are provided to scholarship collegiate athletes, in addition to their paid tuition. Given the money generated by these athletes for the university and their receipt of these “things of value,” a viable argument exists for worker’s compensation benefits for injured student athletes.
In The Atlantic, Continue reading