Working For Free in Sports

Darren Rovell has over 120,000 tweets and 1,680,000 followers as a sports business reporter for ESPN. While many of his tweet’s are viewed by twitter trolls as irrelevant or insignificant, Darren is an influential and well respected member of the media for his staunch reporting.

Darren’s latest tweet (shown above) drew the ire of many in the industry for suggesting that students should work for no financial compensation and that billion dollar media outlets should be expecting free work. The common theme amongst detractors of Darren’s philosophy was that if your work was valuable than you should be compensated. There was also the belief that if someone is doing the work for free, they are taking away a paid position from someone else.

When working in ‘sports’ is discussed, what many don’t understand is just how broad of an industry it is. There are glaring differences between the professional and collegiate ranks. There are also many different jobs that are traditionally within the industry or perhaps working for brands or organizations that interact with sports. All of these different positions require different paths in order to get your foot in the door, as well as to develop the skill sets required to succeed.

I agree with Darren that you must ‘prove value more than ever’, but my personal beliefs actually take the importance of value one step further. Work does not equal compensation. Work does equate to the activity done in order to achieve a result. There are benefits other than financial compensation that should interest you more than the ‘pay’.

The true value of any ‘free’ labor that your provide is: the access to the tools, the relationships developed and being a part of the experience are all more valuable in the build-up of your career in this industry rather than fighting for small wages.

You don’t have to agree with me and I understand that some believe that any compensation is better than no compensation. Many part time / full time employees throughout the industry continue to be undervalued in their current roles.

If you are providing more value to the organization and the are failing to compensate you for that or not compensating in line with your perceived value, perhaps it is time for you to reconsider either the organization that you are working for or the industry that you work in. If you stand around for too long and fail to provide value, you’ll be replaced by the next hungry individual that wants to prove their worth, and maybe they’ll be working for free.


I’m not usually a fan of Around The Horn but check out their opinion on Rovell’s comments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: