Student Well-Being

Little League World Series: The Next Pay-for-Play Frontier?

By Bryan Toporek — August 25, 2011 1 min read
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In light of a number of scandals this past year, the idea of paying NCAA student-athletes for their services has been gaining steam.

Now, Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel has identified where pay-for-play advocates should next turn their attention: the Little League World Series.

In an article published online yesterday, Wetzel made many of the same arguments for the LLWS players that NCAA pay-for-play supporters do. Namely: Everyone’s making boat loads of money from this athletic enterprise ... except for the actual athletes.

Wetzel went digging into federal tax forms and found that Little League Baseball Inc. ($72.9 million in assets in fiscal 2009) generated more than $22 million in total revenue in fiscal 2009. The LLWS alone generated $5.6 million in revenue, and that’s not counting the $3.7 million in broadcast-rights fees that ESPN had to pay.

That leads him to suggest:

Every player could be provided a stipend of, say, $750 every time their team appears on television—all 14 players per roster get the same amount. That would cost $1.18 million total. Most years, according to federal tax filings, that's less than half of Little League Baseball Inc.'s annual profits. They even could attempt to pass the cost on to ESPN, a do-the-right-thing fee. It's a drop in the bucket to the executives. It's a big deal to the players and their families.

As a contrast to the LLWS, Wetzel brings up Disney, which has “entire television networks and movie divisions filled with preteen actors, actresses, singers, and dancers. It wouldn’t dare think of not paying them.” Granted, Disney’s child stars aren’t being paid to compete against one another—at least not exactly—which is what paying LLWS players would amount to.

If the thought of paying LLWS players has you a bit queasy, Wetzel’s willing to compromise by having that money go into either a college saving fund or a trust that the young athletes could only access once they reached 18 or 21 years of age.

This isn’t the first time Wetzel’s made the pay-for-play argument for Little League World Series players. He published a strikingly similar column back in August 2007 on Yahoo! Sports as well.

But, as he pointed out yesterday, the 2007 edition came in the pre-Twitter days. And while the pay-for-play concept with Little League World Series players “always works to enrage some,” Wetzel stands by his statements. “I’m 100 percent correct,” he tweeted.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.