In a very good, lengthy, well-researched editorial for the Washington Post, Donald Yee digs into the economics of college sports, makes the case for paying college football players, examines the racial lines along which this injustice is served, and suggests that a boycott of tomorrow’s national championship game could bring about meaningful reforms faster than anything else. I highly suggest you read the whole thing.
Let’s get into it. Yee, a partner with the agency that represents Tom Brady, starts by showing how much money those involved in tomorrow’s game will be making:
No matter who wins, the University of Alabama’s Southeastern Conference and Clemson University’s Atlantic Coast Conference will be paid $6 million each. So will the conferences of the schools those teams beat to make it to the final. The organization that runs the playoff, a Delaware-headquartered corporation that’s separate from the NCAA, takes in about $470 million each year from ESPN. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney made $3.3 million last year and, as The Washington Post recently reported, his chief of staff makes $252,000; Alabama’s Nick Saban, the highest-paid coach in college football, made slightly more than $7 million, and the team’s strength and conditioning coach makes $600,000.
Of course, some of the players involved in the game will some day be very rich, but they are in the minority compared to the rest of their colleagues. Yee then looks at the premise of the student-athlete, and mentions how fans tend to justify supporting a crooked system because it’s convenient.
The racial makeup of labor vs. management is the meat of Yee’s case against the NCAA, and it could actually go a long way towards explaining why fans ignore the economic injustice of the NCAA system:
After all, who is actually earning the billions of dollars flooding universities, athletic conferences, TV networks and their sponsors? To a large extent, it’s young black men, who are heavily overrepresented in football and men’s basketball, the two sports that bring in virtually all the revenue in college athletics.
Then, after getting into the specifics of how much the primarily black base of college football and basketball players make for other people, he reveals that most of the people profiting are white:
And for the most part, the people getting paid are white. Since 1951, when its first top executive was appointed, the head of the NCAA always has been a white man. Of the Power Five conferences, none — dating back to the 1920s — has ever had a nonwhite commissioner. A 2015 study by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found that 86.7 percent of all athletic directors in the NCAA were white.
The NCAA’s argument against criticisms of this stripe is that they provide scholarships to all athletes, and that a college education is worth their labor. However, this is a specious argument:
However, they come with onerous restrictions and no promise of an education. The 2013 Penn study found that black male student athletes graduated at lower rates than other black men at 72 percent of institutions with big-time football and basketball programs — and lower than other undergraduates overall at 97 percent of them.
At many schools, football and basketball players are forced into contrived majors in which they have no interest.
So, now that he’s set up the injustice at hand, what is to be done? Well:
The few players who go on to NFL or NBA careers give up years of potential earnings to play for free in college, risking injury in the process. Most athletes, of course, don’t make it to the pros.
No other large-scale commercial enterprise in the United States treats its performers and labor this way.
Change, however, could come rapidly and fairly easily. If even a small group of players took a stand and refused to participate — imagine if they boycotted or delayed the start of Monday night’s championship game — administrators would have to back down. There’s too much money on the line, and no one could force the teams to play against their will. The schools and the NCAA would simply have to renegotiate the bargain with football and basketball players.
Many have made the case before for player action, but nobody has done as as eloquently or thoroughly as Yee. I encourage you to go read the whole thing over at the Washington Post.
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