At a panel discussion on college sports this week, as reported by USA Today, basketball player Nigel Hayes said that he discussed boycotting a 2016 game with his Wisconsin teammates to protest the NCAA’s failure to properly pay its athletes.
Hayes, who just finished his rookie season with the Sacramento Kings, said that he proposed the boycott to the team for a November 2016 game against Syracuse—a nationally televised game, but a non-conference one that shouldn’t have affected their NCAA Tournament chances, he explained. From USA Today:
“I knew 90 percent of the guys were on board from the get-go, before I asked the question. But I let them know that if one of you guys says no, we won’t do it because, obviously, we’re a team and we’re going to stick together.
“In hindsight, I think those guys that said no would change their mind now. That’s usually what happens. The guys who don’t go on to the NBA, once they leave college, they look back and say, ‘Wow, I was exploited—and now I have nothing to show for it.’… So, I think we missed our opportunity, but hopefully this word gets out and it will inspire a group of kids that in college now or will be in college.”
Hayes is one of the plaintiffs in a set of ongoing lawsuits questioning the NCAA’s model. He regularly spoke out against the system while still in college.
“With all the money that’s being made that the players are not receiving, there’s going to be a point where the players don’t play,” he said on Tuesday’s panel, which was hosted by the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. “It’s going to take the right player or the right team in the right big-game setting… but if you want to get something done, boycott it. That’s the best way to get anything done… I think it’s something that if we did go through with it, we’d probably be having a very different conversation right now.”