Earlier this month, I shared the story of how fans are the most important component in the business of sports. Without them, there will be no game tickets, no pizza, popcorn, burger and drinks sold, no games broadcasted on television or livestream whether it’s local or international, no advertisement spots sold to companies, and especially no merchandise sold. They generate the money in the business, plus, our superstar and celebrity-athletes would be just like any other ordinary individual without them.
Humans are naturally social beings that at the end of the day, we just want to be part of something. For this reason, different kinds of communities are built whether the reason is one’s religion, political beliefs or in this case, sports preference. For example, there exists an Ateneo volleyball fan community and during the time when I was part of the varsity team, I believe that around 2/3 of the spectators in the arena are not even students, alumni or employees of the school judging by the number of those wearing blue/white clothes and was actually singing along to the school hymn.
And speaking of fans wearing their team colors, this made me look back when athlete’s shirseys (shirt jerseys) started to become fast-selling merchandise. Of course it was pretty cool that my teammates and I received tons of free shirts that are not only useful for trainings but were awesome by themselves! The shirseys was such a brilliant idea that fans loved it since it was something much more personalized than just plain school tees.
What made me stop raving about these wonderfully-designed shirts was when my coach asked us that maybe getting free shirts is not enough compensation for having our last names used to sell their products. Looking at the bigger picture, the athlete’s image and likeness were used, as means to generate revenue for these companies and the players doesn’t even receive what I believe a proper compensation for having their identities treated as commodities. Try comparing it to how Nike needs to pay royalty and licensing fees to La Salle and Ateneo so that the former can manufacture apparel items using the schools’ name, logo and/or official color. To put it in another perspective, I have seen at least La Salle and Ateneo’s player’s shirseys sold to the public and imagine how many fans buy these shirts. During the UAAP Volleyball Season 78, the highest game attendance was a finals game between those schools mentioned, which tallied a total of 22,848 people. Now think about how most if not all of those attendees had the access to buy the shirseys and how many of them bought at least one or was wearing one already. Also think about how Season 74 through 77, it has been the same schools that competed in the finals and there is at least one finals game attendance that averaged 20,000 people. A school would have an average of 14 games in a season and these shirt companies have at least the chance to set up a pop-up store in those venues to sell the item
So the question remains: Do these student-athletes have the right to contest a company’s use of their image and likeness for marketing purposes? Further more, how will this work in relation to Republic Act No. 10676, which protects the amateur nature of such athletes?