FanAngel is a site that, in a just world, wouldn’t exist. The crowdfunding site enables fans to become patrons of NCAA athletes, donating money to persuade said athletes to stay in school, with the site holding the money in escrow until the athlete’s eligibility expires.
While it is true that NCAA athletes from power conferences have been getting the shaft for decades by not being compensated properly for their increasingly valuable labor, crowdfunded donations from fans do nothing to alleviate the exploitative labor conditions under which NCAA athletes operate.
In the event that a FanAngel crowdfunding campaign is successful and the athlete’s NCAA eligibility expires, 80 percent of the money would go to the athlete, 10 percent would go to the athlete’s teammates (nice touch!), and 10 percent would go to a scholarship fund or charity. FanAngel makes money by taking 9 percent of the total amount raised (more on this later). Of course, if the athlete doesn’t stay in school the money is refunded.
Shawn Fotjik, founder of FanAngel, said in an interview with ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell, “If you wanted Marcus Mariota to stay in school for his senior year, you could give $20.” I applaud Fotjik on getting good PR from Darren Rovell, but Marcus Mariota is either going #1 or #2 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft and there is no amount of money FanAngel could raise that could keep him in school.
Contributing to a crowdfunding campaign for teenagers who are exceptionally good at big time NCAA sports, and also strangers to the donor, is something I’d assume would be creepy to most well-mannered adults. As has been proven time and time again in my life, I am wrong about this assumption.
Fans of Jarrell Martin, a sophomore forward for the LSU Tigers who, according to DraftExpress.com, is projected to be drafted at the end of the 1st round in the upcoming NBA Draft, have raised over $700 on FanAngels for him to return to LSU for his junior and senior senior seasons, completing his NCAA eligibility. Understanding that FanAngel is a new venture and will need time to scale both users and donations, it still strains credulity to see this ever happening.
For a glimpse of what might be in Fotjik’s future, FanPay, a crowdfunding site which raises donations as graduation gifts for college athletes, has received over 100 cease-and-desist letters from universities and conferences.
Additionally, FanAngel may want to rethink the 9 percent fee they collect for successful campaigns. Other supposedly altruistic crowdfunding donation sites have been taken to task in the past for collecting high fees. One of the worst offenders is Give Forward, which collects 7.9 percent of every donation plus a $0.50 transaction fee. Nine percent is a laughable amount that puts FanAngels in the same exploitative waters they claim they are trying to drain.
If college sports fans suffering from hero worship want to contribute to an NCAA athlete’s cause, they should skip crowdfunding platforms and donate to the National College Players Association (NCPA), which spearheaded the player union movement at Northwestern. Or do what has been done for time immemorial, put some cash in an envelope and make a handoff.