MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A new resolution proposed by a Tennessee lawmaker would force public universities to start planning to pay college athletes
"People are making millions of dollars off of these players, coaches are making millions of dollars and yet the players are getting paid nothing and I think that's fundamentally unfair," said State Senator Brian Kelsey, District 31.
State Senator Brian Kelsey's resolution would require Tennessee's public universities like the University of Memphis to work with their athletic conferences to find a way to pay players like Jeremiah Martin.
"My hope is that this moves this conversation forward and that we can finally get these players the compensation that they deserve," said Kelsey.
Kelsey says watching Duke superstar Zion Williamson narrowly avoid major injury when his shoe fell apart inspired him to act.
He says he has number one recruit and Memphian, James Wiseman, who’s committed to UofM, in mind when creating the law.
"I think it's fundamentally unfair for these players and I don't want to see James Wiseman next year at Memphis go through the same thing that Zion Williamson had to go through," said Kelsey.
Kelsey says the AAC basketball tournament is a perfect example. An estimated $5-6 million of economic impact is expected this weekend, while the players aren’t allowed to have any compensation.
Tigers fan heading into FedEx Forum were torn on the idea.
"I don't feel it's right that the players get paid, I feel they're getting paid with a college degree," said Que Cobb, Tigers fan.
"I would support that they're making a lot of money for the universities, they're generating millions of dollars of revenue," said Jay Gardner, Tigers fan.
"You cannot tell me with all of the millions of dollars of revenue you are making that these kids should not be getting something," said State Representative Antonio Parkinson.
State Representative Antonio Parkinson supports Kelsey’s resolution and will introduce his own bill with a more specific plan on what exactly to play players and when.
"It would be for every sport," said Parkinson.
Under Parkinson's plan, every university in Tennessee receiving state money would contribute one percent of ticket sales to set up a trust fund.
Tier 1 athletes such as basketball and football players would get up to $50,000. Tier 2 athletes in smaller, less profitable sports would get up to $25,000 after graduation.
"Because we want to encourage graduation," said Parkinson.
Kelsey’s resolution still has a long way to go before it is passed.