Watching the spectacle and dollars swirling around the College Football Championship was a reminder of the irony of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, (the $11 million dollar man) accusing sports agents of being pimps a few years ago. The fact is no one represents pimping more than Saban and the entire major college sports industrial complex.
Whoever said, “pimping ain’t easy” has not paid close attention to major college sports.
Watching the game one is reminded that absolutely everyone is getting paid, except for the guys on the field, who incidentally people paid good money to see and networks shelled out big dough to showcase.
Everybody is getting paid: the coaches, the assistant coaches, the assistants to the assistants, the recruiting office, the athletic department, the referees, the secretaries, the vendors, the restaurateurs, the hotels and the NCAA. According to stats gathered by Forbes magazine, colleges and conferences that participated in the 2017/18 bowl season received a combined payout of nearly a half billion dollars.
Affable Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is down to earth and reasonable until someone asks the coach who is paid $7 million a year, if the athletes, the gladiators, the sharecroppers, the colonized under his charge should be paid and the seemingly fair minded guy becomes agitated as he makes it clear he is adamantly opposed.
Slavery and plantation comparisons are a bit over the top, but college football is some ways comparable to colonialism. The college practically owns the players. The college gets to use his body to make money not just through his playing on the field, but the very equipment he wears makes money for his school.
“The college player cannot sell his own feet (the coach does that) nor can he sell his own name (the college will do that). This is the plantation mentality resurrected and blessed by today’s campus executive,” wrote Walter Byers past president of the NCAA.
The school gets a healthy sum of money for wearing Under Armor or Nike or Addidas uniforms and shoes. Sonny Vaccaro after having some kind of pang of conscious exposed this hustle a few years ago.
Vaccaro, who peddled Reebok and made a fortune, is honest about it. “The kids and their parents gave me a good life, …this goes beyond race, to human rights. The least educated are the most exploited,” he said.
The majority of the players in the major college programs are Black and an overwhelming number of the star players are Black. Many of them are poor and come from working class and/or impoverished communities. Coaches, recruiters, pimps, come into these neighborhoods and extract one of their most valuable natural resources, raw athletic talent.
Families gather around as their loved one chooses their favored “brand” of exploiter, as if Christmas has come early. But that family will likely see little tangible benefit from the sometimes highly publicized choice, which not surprisingly is turned into a profit making venture when it is shown on TV at one of the national high school All Star contests. According to statistics, less than two percent of college football players enter the professional ranks and only a small percentage of those sustain careers longer than a few years
Like colonial subjects, rather than demanding something tangible in return, the exploited are often impressed and even thankful for the attention of the exploiter.
Most of the players have been “poured into” by people in the neighborhood; including teachers, mentors, church folks, and relatives. They have been coached and taught the basics of their craft (often before they reach high school) by those who donate and dedicate their time for free. Some athletes come from high school programs in which coaches salary are a mere penance, making it in effect; a labor of love.
But the colleges don’t feel any need to invest anything in the “hood,” which incidentally consistently turn out the talent they need for their, “not so” amateur football or basketball program.
Yes the kid gets tuition paid, as those who are opposed to monetary compensation for them are quick to point out. But it’s not as simple as that. The players spend at least 40 hours a week practicing their craft as “athlete-students.”
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, exposed this sham when he recently stated that “football and studying don’t go together. It’s like having two full time jobs,” he said.
Ironically, the young people are called student –athletes, but nobody really cares about their academic prowess only that they stay eligible to compete.
And those who oppose just compensation for athletes, hide behind the claim that it would be just too difficult to figure out. It’s a lame excuse considering they are institutions of higher education, where people are supposedly taught to solve society’s problems. They should be able to “figure it out,” they had no problem “figuring out” how to fully exploit and appropriate all they could from the poor “athlete-student.”
Even if the “athlete-student” obtains a degree, it does not carry the same weight that it did in years past. A college degree is almost looked upon like a high school diploma these days. It clearly doesn’t secure their financial future, unlike the coaching and support staffs at the colleges for whom they “freely” toiled.
Joe athlete upon graduating is on his own. Even after he leaves the sport, he can’t receive compensation by taking advantage of his own likeness, or get paid endorsement money for some memorable play or impact he made in a game.
At the very least, major colleges should have to invest in the neighborhoods from which they recruit their product. If there is drug addiction, the University should invest in treatment centers. If there is undue violence, the University should invest in street outreach workers who have resources attached to them including GED tutoring. There should be resources for newly released inmates trying to get their lives back on track. Colleges should invest in job development in these communities. Practically every predominantly Black urban and rural community suffers from high unemployment.
There should be a “quid pro quo” relationship developed between the colleges and the communities from which they draw their athletic talent.
If we were a decent people, we would call for a halt to the exploitation of our children. We would demand that the real pimps, Saban and his overpaid peers, the NCAA (which lays the foundation for this exploitation) and major college’s that field major college football programs, give something back; something tangible, real money, real opportunities, real social welfare in return for all they get from these players.
justice then peace