With the Final Four coming up, 64 percent of Americans tell Reason-Rupe that student-athletes should receive money if a college or company sells gear containing their likeness or jersey number. And 50 percent of Americans say college basketball players should share in the more than $700 million in television revenues the NCAA takes in for the basketball tournament each year.
The latest Reason-Rupe poll asked a series of question about the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and its revenues. Initially only 42 percent of Americans said college basketball players should be allowed to receive a portion of the revenues generated from NCAA basketball tournaments. But among African-Americans, that number jumped to 66 percent—while only 35 percent of whites said players should get paid.
The Reason-Rupe poll, however, showed that respondents' approval of student-athlete pay increased after they learned more about NCAA profits from the popular March Madness tournament.
After being informed that the NCAA will receive over $700 million this year for college basketball broadcasts for tournament games, 50 percent of Americans said that college basketball players should receive some portion of the television revenue.
And when it comes to college merchandise, a multi-billion dollar a year business, a majority of Americans—64 percent—said that student-athletes should receive money if a college or company sells gear containing their likeness or jersey number.
The disparity in racial attitudes over college athlete pay could be attributed to the fact that an overwhelming majority of basketball players are African-American—57.2 percent of NCAA men's basketball players and 76.3 percent NBA players identify as black, according to recent data.
But the gap in approval highlights the undercurrent of race as an issue in the latest battle over student-athlete pay—a battle that culminated with the National Labor Relations Board's historic ruling last week that said full-scholarship football players at Northwestern University are school employees and have a right to unionize.
What makes the student-athlete pay issue potential racial tinder is the fact that the revenue producing sports of basketball and football are predominantly played by minority athletes. As Dave Zirin over at The Nation explains:
It does not take Cornel West to point out that the revenue producing sports of basketball and football are overwhelmingly populated by African-American athletes. The population of the United States that is most desperate for an escape out of poverty is the population that has gotten the rawest possible deal from an NCAA, which is actively benefiting from this state of affairs.
Nationwide telephone poll conducted March 26-30, 2014 interviewed 1,003 adults on both mobile (503) and landline (500) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.6%. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide Reason-Rupe survey. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Sign up for notifications of new releases of the Reason-Rupe poll here.