Last week, a worker “allegedly” had intentions of finding another job if his current employer didn’t give him a raise he’d proven he earned. The worker knew his value and “allegedly” felt like he should be paid more after outperforming his deal. You would think that something like this would be applauded, given that we live in a capitalist society. But, instead of being championed, Miami Hurricanes star Isaiah Wong became the scapegoat.
The college basketball landscape blew a gasket last week when Wong’s agent — yes, the NCAA allowed players to have those years ago — told ESPN that his client wanted a better NIL deal, or else he’d enter the transfer portal and take his talents somewhere other than South Beach, or Coral Gables.
“If Isaiah and his family don’t feel that the NIL number meets their expectations, they will be entering the transfer portal (Friday), while maintaining his eligibility in the NBA draft and going through the draft process,” said Wong’s agent Adam Papas. “Isaiah would like to stay at Miami. He had a great season leading his team to the Elite Eight. He has seen what incoming Miami Hurricane basketball players are getting in NIL and would like his NIL to reflect that he was a team leader of an Elite Eight team.”
The game had changed, and Wong “allegedly” wanted more. Which makes dollars and sense for multiple reasons.
For one, Wong watched as former Kansas State star Nijel Pack announced that he was transferring to Miami to be his new teammate. However, one of the main reasons he was moving to Florida was because he had secured a two-year $800,000 NIL deal and a free car from LifeWallet, the same company that Wong has a NIL deal with. Wong’s deal isn’t as sweet.
Secondly, Miami just finished a run to the Elite Eight. As the tenth seed in the Midwest region, the Hurricanes were underdogs in their first two games against No. 7 USC and No. 2 Auburn. You can guess who led Miami in scoring in both of those games.
Lastly, over the past two years, Miami has only had one player on their roster that was named All-Conference in back-to-back seasons in the ACC. His name is Isaiah Wong.
Sounds like he’s outplayed his contract, right? And I only use the term “contract” because that’s what the man that’s paying it called it.
“He has been treated by LifeWallet exceptionally well,” LifeWallet CEO John Ruiz told ESPN last week. Ruiz then acknowledged that Wong was “under contract” and he was against renegotiating his deal. “If that is what he decides, I wish him well, however, I do not renegotiate. I cannot disclose the amount, but what I can say is that he was treated very fairly.”
This is how things work in a capitalist society. You get a job. Do good work. Ask for a raise. And if you get rejected, you either stay and try to prove yourself or find a job elsewhere that will give you a better salary. But, instead of that being the case, Wong became the scapegoat for all the inadequacies that the NCAA failed to properly construct when it came to creating the transfer portal and what is and isn’t allowable under NIL. And after decades of fans and media members screaming about how corrupt and unfair the NCAA and amateurism are, the first time a college athlete “allegedly” tried to go about getting more in a way that was above board, he got crucified for it.
Oh, if you’re wondering why I keep saying “allegedly” it’s because Wong said none of this is what he actually wanted…“allegedly.” He released a statement on social media basically saying, “my agent said all that. Not me.” Mind you, the statement was made after all the backlash happened. No wonder he’s staying in Miami and won’t be transferring.
Both sides have made up, as Ruiz tweeted that the “deal remains the same, however, as I said day one I will help him (Wong) get other NIL Deals.” With the introduction of NIL, student-athletes that had always been unpaid workers in a billion-dollar industry can finally make some legal money for themselves. And the first time one of them tried to negotiate their contract, the same crowd of people that once claimed that these athletes “deserved a bigger piece of the pie,” got pissed off when one finally asked for one.
And to make things worse, some were concerned about how Wong’s decision would affect Miami coach Jim Larranaga, as if a 72-year-old coach who signed a contract extension in March, and who has been able to land two standout guards in Charlie Moore and Nigel Pack in back-to-back seasons through the transfer portal, would be crippled in his ability to field a team.
Anybody that has ever made a dollar due to capitalism, believes in self-worth, or has ever claimed that student-athletes deserve more should be ashamed of themselves if they did anything other than champion Wong for what he may have been “allegedly” feeling or the words and actions of his agent. However, this reaction should have been expected. This is what happens in America every time a group that’s been disenfranchised for decades tries to balance the scales. Because as much as people claim they want equality, they always find a way to object to it when it’s time to make it happen. People love ideas more than execution.
In 1971, Spencer Haywood changed basketball, and people were pissed that a player had the audacity to take his case against the NBA to the Supreme Court. He eventually won, and his case opened the doors for high school and college players to enter the draft where they could make money without staying in school for four years. And while Haywood’s story is often overlooked, he’s one of the most important people in the history of basketball. I hope history remembers Isaiah Wong the same way.