FILS: Should amateur athletes be compensated?

Manny Fils

Manny Fils

For those that may have not heard, the Miami Heat's Dwayne Wade recently made a comment about how he felt that Olympic athletes should be paid. Somehow, his words got twisted around in a way that made it sound like he wanted to get paid for being on the USA basketball team.

First of all, I want to say that being from Miami, I'm going to defend D-Wade. Of course, agreeing with him makes it easier.

According to his Facebook, the controversy occurred when a reporter asked about his thoughts on Olympians being paid. For the record, Dwayne never said that HE wanted to get paid for representing the USA in London this summer. He went on to write that " ... my love for the game and pride for USA motivates me more than any dollar amount. I repped my country in 2004 when we won the silver medal and stood proudly to receive our gold medal in 2008 in Beijing. It's always been an honor for me to be a part of the USA Olympic family and I'm looking forward to doing it again in London this summer."

His thinking is that Olympic athletes give a lot of their time in training and provide the International Olympic Committee with the talent which provides them the ability to get funded.

Not only does the IOC get corporate donations from companies such as Coca-Cola, Dow, GE, Procter and Gamble, Visa and McDonald's (I find McDonald's ironic. Here is a company that is at the forefront for being blamed for the obesity in America but they are supporting a group associated with the epitome of healthy bodies). The IOC also gets money from selling rights to make and sell jerseys, equipment, and other items sold at the Olympics. Not to mention the money it generates from selling the television and radio rights to broadcast.

I know once you start paying athletes they are no longer technically considered amateurs. But what expenses does the IOC really have? When a city is picked for the venue to host the site, it is up to the country or the city chosen to pay for the buildings used. From latest reports, London, not the IOC, has paid upward of $14 billion for its Olympic area. Some of the countries that have hosted the Olympics in the past are still in the hole. Just look at Greece, who spent $15 billion in 2004 and is still trying to pay it off.

They do all this with athletes not being paid for their hard work. I mean yes, those that are chosen to represent the United States for the Olympics do not have to pay for their training and once they are selected to the team get housing and everything else at no expense to themselves ... kind of like college football players.

The controversy of paying amateurs is something that has been going on for a long time and is such a fine line. Should college athletes be considered amateurs since they get a college education worth $250,000 or more in some cases?

I remember in the mid-'80s when I was at Florida State and my criminal law professor, Dr. Marc Gertz, who was also friends with Bobby Bowden (bow your head), would tell us how he and Bobby would get into these debates about football players and compensation. Dr. Gertz felt that college football players should be paid whatever they're worth and if they want to go to college they could pay for it themselves. At the same time, he would not put a time limit on how long players could play in college.

I would not take it that far. But regular college students have the opportunities to get a part-time job for spending money and other expenses. However, because of commitments such as practices, needing time to study and all of the other extracurricular activities they are involved in there are just not enough hours in the day for them to earn money. While they do not have to pay for college, they still have to pay for gas, clothes, dates and other personal expenses they may have. If colleges are allowed to pay their athletes, then maybe the influence of booster bribes can be less of a problem.

When Alabama beat LSU in the BCS championship game, the payout was $18 million. The coaches get bonuses, so why shouldn't the players? If they got cash, as well as rings and whatever else they get from the sponsors, then there would not be a problem with the football players, like A.J. Green, selling those items for some walking around money.

Manny Fils is a sports writer for The Citizen. Fils can be emailed at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.