The NCAA is Telling on Itself

The NCAA recently released a statement outlining its newest NIL guidelines, which regulate collectives and boosters their involvement with name, image, and likeness activity. In a sense, this is old news–the NCAA has historically been against NIL and is continuing to try to regulate the economic activities of college athletes. What makes this announcement significant is its timing.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and, to put it lightly, the NCAA seems pretty unaware of this. Since the new year, a total of three college athletes have committed suicide: James Madison softball player, Lauren Bennett, Wisconsin track athlete, Sarah Shulze and Stanford soccer player, Katie Meyer. Instead of doing something to stop these tragedies, the NCAA is doing what it does best: restricting college athletes.

It’s a common misconception that college athletes are the pinnacle of health. After all, competing at an elite level requires immense amounts of physical strength, endurance, and fortitude. What this stereotype ignores completely is the mental component. College athletes deal with tons of performance pressure, anxiety, and issues with tying their entire sense of self-worth to their identity as an athlete. It’s no wonder college athletes generally have worse mental health than their non-athlete peers as well as higher rates of suicide and self-harm.

Instead of addressing this, the NCAA wants to put its time, effort, and energy into regulating college athletes’ NIL rights. It’s completely unacceptable, considering that the NCAA has done a fair amount of research about college athlete mental health and has handbooks full of “best practices” (which, unlike NIL rules, are not enforceable) for schools to follow at their convenience. To top it all off, the NCAA cut funding to mental health services for college athletes during the coronavirus pandemic (and I’d bet that money instead went to the fund legal battle the NCAA was waging–and continues to wage–against NIL laws).

The bottom line is that the NCAA knows college athletes are suffering. They’d just rather regulate them than help them.

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