Tim Tebow does not feel like he was missing out on anything by being denied the opportunity to make money on Florida’s sales of his No. 15 jersey while he was a Gator.
The Heisman winner and current ESPN analyst went on a nonsensical rant Friday on “First Take” where he claimed that he didn’t want to make money on his college jersey sales and that the push for college athletes to be compensated more fairly for their revenue-driving efforts is “piling on” to a current “selfish culture.”
Here’s Tebow’s rant in full.
I feel like I have a little credibility and knowledge about this because when I was at the University of Florida I think my jersey was one of the top-selling jerseys around the world. It was like Kobe, LeBron and then I was right behind them. And I didn’t make a dollar from it.
But nor did I want to because I knew going into college what it was all about. I knew going to Florida, my dream school, where I wanted to go, the passion for it. If I could support my team, support my college, support my university, that’s what it’s all about.
But now we’re changing it from us, from we, from my university, from being an alumni where I care which makes college football and college sports special to then, OK it’s not about us it’s not about we it’s just about me.
And yes I know we live in a selfish culture where it’s all about us but we’re just adding and piling on to that. Where it changes what’s special about college football. 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 NFL. That’s why the stadiums are bigger in college than they are in the NFL. Because it’s about your team, it’s about your university. It’s about where my family wanted to go. It’s about where my grandfather had a dream of seeing Florida win an SEC championship. And you’re taking that away so that young kids can earn a dollar and that’s just not where I feel like college football needs to go.
The topic that spurred Tebow’s rant was California’s efforts to allow athletes in the state to make money through sponsorships and endorsements while still in school — something that’s currently forbidden by NCAA rules. After passing through California’s state legislature, the bill could be signed into law effective in 2023 by Gov. Gavin Newsom in the next few weeks.
Tebow’s belief that he didn’t want to make money on his jersey sales is certainly unique. And must only be tied to the time that he was in college. He’s capitalized nicely on his time at Florida after he left the school with books, his ESPN gig as an analyst and numerous speaking engagements. He’s made plenty of money off his career most known for being a Florida quarterback without receiving a dime from those jersey sales.
And that capitalization on being one of the most famous quarterbacks in Florida history is well within his right. The four-year self-sacrifice for the greater good that he apparently passionately believes in has rewarded him with a financial windfall in his post-college career.
Not every athlete has that opportunity to capitalize so richly on after-college life that Tebow does. And he should realize that.
He should also realize that the college sports reality that he describes doesn’t actually exist, especially in football. With the NFL’s age limit in place and no minor league system, college football has been the only way that high school football players have a chance of getting good enough to play professional football.
And given that a small fraction of those college players will actually get to play pro ball, shouldn’t they have the opportunity to be more fairly treated for bringing millions of dollars in revenue to their schools?
The selfish culture that Tebow thinks is pervading college athletics has been there for a long time, too. What’s more selfish than those in charge of athletic departments and football programs making six and seven-figure salaries — and being able to move freely from school to school for better jobs — while the players aren’t allowed to financially capitalize on their name and likeness while they’re in school and have to sit out a season if they want to transfer?
The only reason college athletes are treated the way they are is because that’s always been the way it is. Thankfully, public opinion is helping to shift things slowly but surely towards more equity for athletes in the form of guaranteed scholarships and cost of attendance stipends.
But as California’s bill shows, there’s still a long way for college sports to go for athletes to be treated fairly. Tebow just may not appreciate the upcoming journey.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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