February 5, 2020
Athletes are some of the most prized students at colleges across America. After all, they’re tasked with the difficult job of representing their school, while trying to take their own athletic careers to the next level.
However, this also means that athletes often have to tiptoe around the various rules and regulations that are currently in play. And while the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) already has several laws and rules to protect college athletes, there will be times where legal intervention is necessary.
Whether it’s injuries or team issues, there could come a time when you will need to seek legal aid. Here’s everything that athletes need to know about seeing legal aid:
When to seek help
If you’re a college athlete, then you’re eligible to apply for an athletic scholarship. They’re offered at NCAA DI and D2 levels, as well as at the NAIA and NJCAA levels. DIII colleges don’t offer athletic scholarships, but plenty of their athletes receive financial aid from a third-party investor.
While scholarships help financially, its contract sometimes contains clauses the administration doesn’t tell you about outright. For instance, Sports Illustrated states that accepting an athletic scholarship means that you’re not allowed to transfer schools without permission from your current one. Depending on the circumstances, the school can even hold your transfer. A scholarship also doesn’t guarantee that the school will pay for all your athletic injuries (which will be discussed more below). So before you sign that contract, it’s best to consult with an attorney to help you understand what you’re getting into. However, they will not be allowed to be present during the actual signing of the contract.
Perhaps one of the biggest issues that drive college athletes to seek legal aid is related to health. Physician Robin Berzin warns on Parsley Health that as many as 20 million people in the United States suffer from some form of autoimmune disease. With over 80 different types of diseases, it also makes it one of the most prevalent diseases in the country. And contrary to popular belief, athletes are not exempt from such cases, despite their physical fitness and capabilities. For instance, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes early in his career, although it didn’t stop him from pursuing his passion. But that doesn’t negate the fact that those with medical needs will have to play in special circumstances. For instance, if you become ill due to your athletic endeavors, is the school then liable to pay for your medical bills?
Of course, there’s also the issue of actual injuries inflicted during athletic activities. Cheerleader Melissa Martin filed a lawsuit last year against the University of California Berkeley and USA Cheer after her coach insisted that she kept training despite an early concussion during practice. This incident led to her sustaining even more injuries. These two cases called for the expertise of a lawyer.
What resources are available?
Before you seek an attorney, it’s important to understand that you’re already being protected by a law called the Student Right-to-Know Act, which was passed by Congress in 1990. The law states that schools disclose all their processes, including institutional graduation rates, athlete graduation rates, and athletic scholarship grants, among others. It also requires academic institutions to provide information that students are entitled to upon request. So if your campus is holding your transfer, for example, you have the right to know why.
If the odds are really against you, then call for legal aid. The NCAA currently allows athletes to seek pro bono help—with the condition that the athletes must look for their own attorney. Usually, your college will be able to procure a list of contactable attorneys. Keep in mind, however, that it’s highly encouraged that you search for your own sports law expert to ensure that you’re getting the best help possible.
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