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ROGER WATSON COLUMN: Sen. Burr proposes new tax

While the sports world was celebrating the NCAA’s decision to allow student-athletes to rightly receive compensation for the use of their names, images and likeness, N. C. Sen. Richard Burr did something Republicans rarely do — he proposed a tax.

Roger Watson

“If college athletes are going to make money off their likenesses while in school, their scholarships should be treated like income. I’ll be introducing legislation that subjects scholarships given to athletes who choose to “cash in” to income taxes,” Burr tweeted.

While it is refreshing to see any Republican senator have an independent thought about taxes, it is puzzling Burr would have such a harsh reaction against athletes who have been routinely taken advantage of by the NCAA, colleges, video game companies, shoe companies and television networks who rake in billions based on their talents with little benefits beyond a scholarship and free room and board.

Having been a former college athlete himself as a defensive back on the Wake Forest football team in the mid-70s, it would seem Burr would be in favor of giving college athletes the same opportunity to earn pizza money as other college students.

The state’s other Republican senator, Thom Tillis, has a different, more logical, viewpoint on this issue. Tillis told the Raleigh News & Observer college athletes should have the opportunity to make money for their fame. He used an example of a local athlete going to college and then coming back home making a few dollars signing autographs at a sporting goods store. That practice is currently prohibited under NCAA rules.

If Sen. Burr wants to start proposing taxes, there are a lot more important issues that can be fixed than this issue, which is relatively small potatoes. How about increasing the federal gas tax to deal with our crumbling infrastructure of roads and bridges? We could close corporate loopholes to contribute to a real healthcare solution or what about directly helping with the cost of higher education by temporarily reducing the tax burden on parents with children in college?

There are plenty of worthy conversations to be had about how taxes and tax policy can be adjusted to move the country forward as a whole, taxing college athletes for a college scholarship is not one of them.

Roger Watson is publisher of The Stanly News & Press.