Sports writers and sports casters are lining up to take a whack at Tim Tebow for his opposition to payola for college athletes. Several from ESPN alone took shots at him Friday. The topic flared up this week after California lawmakers unanimously passed the so-called Fair Pay to Play Act, which if signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, will enable athletes to make money off their own name, image and likeness, beginning Jan. 1, 2023.
This is currently not allowed by NCAA rules and sets up a potential court challenge to the law by the association that governs major college sports in the U.S. Tebow opposes the California bill and brought down an avalanche of wrath upon himself for having the guts to say it on ESPN's First Take TV program Friday:
“I know we live in a selfish culture where it's all about us, but we're just adding and piling it on to that where it changes what’s special about college football, and we turn it into the NFL where who has the most money that’s where you go. That’s why people are more passionate about college sports than they are about the NFL. That's why the stadiums are bigger in college than the NFL -- because it's about your team, it's about your university, about where my family wanted to go, about where my grandfather had a dream of seeing Florida win an SEC championship and you're taking that away so young kids can earn a dollar. And that's not where I feel like college football needs to go. You get an opportunity in the NFL, but not in college football.”
First Take's Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith said colleges are "exploiting the labor" of athletes, and they opposed Tebow's view. Kellerman raised the problem of boosters giving illegal under-the-table money to athletes, which only demonstrates that some athletes are already getting paid to enroll at universities. Smith said college athletes from "impoverished backgrounds" are being exploited by the NCAA and "deserve" pay, overlooking the full-ride scholarships they receive.
Tebow countered that we shouldn't set the standard based on people "who are doing it the wrong way. We're going to set the standard according to the people who are doing it the right way." Cheaters should be punished and if athletes are paid, the authenticity of college sports is diminished.
Dan Wolken, of USA Today Sports, wrote that Tebow has a "faux morality" and his argument is "laughable" and it's ''an affront to the college experience that he (Tebow) remembers as so pure and innocent." Tebow sees college sports as a "citadel of chastity in a materialistic world," Wolken writes. "Give Tebow credit for this: He can sell college athletics’ schmaltz with the best of them, no matter how hollow the sentiment really is."
There is no virtue in college athletes, Wolken adds. And it’s why "people like Tebow and Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney, who has said 'there’s enough entitlement in this world' when addressing this topic, are tough to take seriously. They view the platform of college sports mostly through their own experience, but they’re the outliers."
Several members of the sports media took to Twitter to disparage Tebow for daring to disagree with them on this topic, taking the position that being a college athlete now is to be entitled:
Jay Bilas, ESPN college basketball analyst: "Great perspective. That Tim Tebow wishes to turn down compensation doesn’t mean all should be required to. He is free to play for free. All athletes should have the same economic rights as LITERALLY everyone else. That’s real choice."
Mina Kimes, ESPN senior writer: "I appreciate Tebow drawing on his own experience here. But he’s making an anti-individualist argument while using his own, individual story to disregard the needs of others."
Ian O'Connor, ESPN senior writer: "The sports & entertainment ecosystem that protected and nurtured a post-playing Tebow isn't going to be there for the overwhelming majority of major college athletes who come from less privileged circumstances. Tim should know that."
Taylor Rooks, Bleacher Report host: "Tim has every right to his opinion, and is entitled to this point of view. But to say 'I didn't want to be paid' is a privileged point of view. he didn't want to be paid because he didn't need to be. Not all student athletes have the luxury of not needing the money.
Dave Zirin, The Nation sports editor: Tim Tebow has failed upward since his glory days in college football. Not everyone has that....privilege.
Chris Thompson, writing on the Deadspin blog, said, "There’s an acoustic phenomenon that occurs when a sanctimonious multi-sport failure whose continuing relevance is owed almost entirely to the marketing value of pandering screeches 'selfish culture' at a certain pitch and volume."
Nice guy, that Thompson.