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A Universal Basic Income for student-athletes: the OBJ UBI

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Let’s simply compensate all college football players by having Odell Beckham Jr. disperse funds on camera at the end of each team’s season.

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LSU won the championship game, icymi. That aired on ESPN, which paid several hundred million dollars for the privilege to broadcast it.

(In case any aliens are reading this: “dollars” are a form of currency, which is something you exchange for goods and services. The winning coach, Ed Orgeron, got $500,000 for his victory. The losing coach, Dabo Swinney, got $200,000 just for appearing. They both also got other currency.)

Afterward, a former LSU player, who is very rich and very famous, handed out some money to current LSU players. People were upset, because the people who are kind of not supposed to get currency got currency.

See this ranking of the silliest things about this episode:

  1. People care about this at all.
  2. LSU, in an attempt to avoid trouble with the NCAA, initially suggested to reporters that the money Beckham gave players was not real money. Only later, after what appears to have been some sort of actual investigation, LSU conceded that the money the rich former LSU player gave to current LSU players might have been real.
  3. The distributed dollar figures are not big. We’re probably dealing with a couple of hundred-dollar handshakes for athletes who had just finished starring in part of a 12-year, $5.6 billion TV package. If these were technically actors and not “amateur” athletes, and Odell were the CEO of the studio, he would be criticized for not paying his actors enough. (This is not “virtue-signaling,” or whatever some mad person on Twitter might claim. We are talking about fractions of pennies on the overall dollar.)
  4. Multiple institutions – LSU, the NCAA, and the SEC – had to engross in a serious investigation into lucrative dapping.
  5. More money has likely been spent on the man hours to investigate OBJ’s crime spree than was handed out during it.
  6. LSU is going to spend several months having to pretend it’s very upset with one of its most famous alums and did not condone this heinous act. LSU will think that is a good way to get the NCAA to knock it off.
  7. The reason we know this was real money is that Joe Burrow said so, noting he could say so because he’s “not a student-athlete anymore.”
  8. At least one person has suggested LSU’s title should be vacated because of this. As noted by Burrow, OBJ’s charity happened after the game ended. No one accepted money from OBJ during the game (that we know of, though it would be funny if they did).
  9. This was not even the most law-enforcement thing about LSU’s postgame, because an actual cop went into LSU’s locker room and threatened to arrest anyone who was smoking a cigar. That was, um, a lot of people.
  10. Beckham, the man whose money started this imbroglio, spanked that cop (literally).
  11. That cop planned to bring battery charges against Beckham for a Good Game delivered during an LSU national championship celebration.
  12. The cop then decided to drop it. So — you’re not gonna believe this, but — the state of Louisiana chose not to prosecute an LSU legend for a Good Game delivered during an LSU national championship celebration.

Enough wild things have happened here that it’s easy to lose sight of what made people mad in the first place: someone gave college athletes a tiny amount of money.

As for what we do with that, here are a few options:

  1. Pour the full weight of college sports’ (fake) federal government into Baton Rouge and assign a team of (fake) detectives to hound the finances of Beckham, Burrow, and receiver Justin Jefferson until the fall of civilization, which began Monday night on ESPN.
  2. Do some weird NCAA crap (ban Beckham from LSU games for one year, which would line up with a year in which LSU loses like 749 starters anyway, and then hit a lowly resourced SWAC school with recruiting sanctions or something). LSU’s unlikely to get in real trouble, so heads up, Division II teams.
  3. Set up a big network so we can launder player-paying money directly through Beckham and other alumni of various universities.

Clearly, these are the only three options, and clearly, the last one is the good one. It feels good to watch people enjoy hard-earned trophies. Well, what’s a better trophy than a stack of cash handed to you by a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver?

How would that work? The possibilities are endless.

Perhaps OBJ (or his equivalent from another university) could pass the plate among each championship-contending team’s boosters and alumni, then redistribute that wealth in person at the exact moment those players are no longer bound by NCAA rules.

Perhaps there’s even one big, national fund that ensures every player gets a portion.

Perhaps we don’t just do this for the winning team in FBS’ title game, but at the conclusion of every team’s final game each year (that’s a lot of teams, so we’re gonna need a lot of extra Santas).

Perhaps we add interest, to account for these departing players having probably not received televised cash-handshakes over the previous three to five years.

Hmm, we should probably do this with plastic cards, instead of cash, just for ease of physical distribution.

Of course, problems could arise. In all the hustle and bustle of a season-ending game’s field scene, OBJ or his associates might accidentally hand money to too many players! Maybe even including all the players who aren’t departing college athletics! Yikes!

The NCAA will need to figure out how it feels about every player in the whole sport being paid tens of thousands of dollars on camera each year by Odell Beckham Jr. and other popular athletes, but they’ve got several months to figure out that detail, so let’s just go ahead and do this.