If there is a single event that is the epitome of the hypocrisy of so-called American exceptionalism, it is this one which showcases the exploitation of its most powerless and vulnerable population: its youth. The NCAA and its member schools, especially the major sports, are engaged in a criminal cartel which act as pimps, while illegally defrauding children and young people of a share of the revenue from their labor, which would be consistent with the normal rules of the free market.
As a local commentator put it, “Those are some pretty fat wallets those administrators are sitting on”
Without question the optics are poor. The NCAA is a cartel of rich White men making decisions to defraud predominantly working class Black youth. The NCAA leadership and the heads of the participating schools will arrive in Minneapolis by private jet, stay in the best of hotels and eat the best foods and watch the game from their private suites.
Yet it was only a few years ago that Connecticut basketball player Shabazz Napier after winning the championship, said, “there’s hungry nights where I am not able to eat.” Players often have had to jump through hoops to get money to go home for family member’s funerals. Some walked around campus dressed mainly in sweats because they cant afford to purchase clothes. Others had to scrape for money just to wash their clothes. Fortunately the bosses after being embarassed now provide their laborers with a stipend for essentials.
As former Nike exec and sports marketer, Sonny Vacaro put it years ago, “Their organization [NCAA] is a fraud.”
Everything about the Final Four will be on sale. Everything: merchandise, tickets, telecasts. Everybody will be making money; ticket sellers, the city of Minneapolis, hotels, restaurants, advertisers, TV, the NCAA, just about everybody, except the kids. Not only will the players perform virtually for free, they will be walking advertisements for their school’s perspective athletic wear sponsor Nike and Under Armour. The millionaire coaches will even get a cut of the schools shoe company revenue but not the students who will be forced to advertise the company’s shoes while wearing their logos on their uniforms.
Worse yet, the athletes even lose control of their own image, which does indeed bring up comparisons with slavery because someone else, (the NCAA) literally controls their image. Universities not only control the athlete’s image, but sell their image in every way imaginable,from selling jerseys with their names on it to using their likeness to advertise t games
And yes technically this is criminal. Theft by Swindle is defined by Minnesota Statue, as “swindling, whether by artifice, trick, device, or any other means whereby a person obtains property or services from another person.”
The NCAA is committing a swindle by pretending that these athletes/employees are “student-athletes” who in every way are professionals working often up to 60 hour weeks, leaving little time for studying to actually obtain the promised “education.”
The teams in the current Final Four have been away from campus for the majority of the last three weeks. When did they have time to study?
Furthermore, practically all of the NCAA colleges involved in the major sports, football, basketball and baseball, encourage the so called “student-athlete” to take the least challenging route to a degree, even when “student-athletes” insist on taking more difficult classes or pursue a more challenging degree.
Pimping would not be an unfair description of the relationship between these young people and the colleges and the NCAA. Like pimps it is this cartel takes what the players have earned and and give them little in return.
Incredibly, the NCAA has been able to keep up the charade of amateurism, denying young people fair market value because US courts (state and federal) to their shame, have continually ruled in its favor.
While the NCAA paternalistically pretends to seek the best interest of the student athlete, the very designation came about in an effort to allow schools to shirk their responsibility to injured players. If “student-athletes” are amateurs and not employees, as courts ruled in the 1950’s, then the colleges have no obligation to care for students once their careers have been ended by injury. In other words, this whole farce was created not only to disenfranchise athletes, but also to help the NCAA and its members avoid paying workmen’s comp claims for players who sustain long term injuries.
In some instances the legal system has gotten creative, while allowing the NCAA cartel to continue its criminal enterprise. Kent Waldrep was paralyzed in 1974 in a game while playing running back for TCU. After paying his initial medical bills TCU, abruptly stopped. Waldrep sued under the contention that he was working for the school at the time of his injury and should have received workman’s compensation. After several court decisions an Appeals Court in 2000 ruled that he was not an employee because he had not paid taxes on financial aid that he could have kept even if he quit football.
In 2016 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held in Berger v. National Collegiate Athletic Association that, as a matter of law, college athletes “are not employees and are not entitled to a minimum wage under the [Fair Labor Standards Act.]”
Last month yet another gutless judge, Claudia Wilken, left this myth intact, while admitting that the NCAA did indeed violate antitrust laws. But she ruled that the schools (which already find ways to limit the education that they have promised to recruits) can add more compensation through providing more educational opportunities. It is anybody’s guess how that will actually benefit the athletes, or equal monetary compensation which is the only honest way to right this wrong.
The myth of the amateur student athlete is a conscious effort to commodify our children, who are viewed as expendable. It harkens back to the days of the Coliseum and the gladiator and New World chattel slavery and the fighting of big“bucks” for the master’s pleasure, both were used for entertainment and then discarded when they were no longer useful.
This is fundamentally wrong. Practically everyone at the Universities is making money, and lots of it; coaches, assistants, recruiters, trainers, athletic department heads and associates and employees.
Worse yet the majority of major college athletes are Black, but too few of the head coaches, assistant coaches, athletic department’s heads and administrators are Black. During the NCAA tournament it was difficult not to notice that even the overwhelming majority of female sideline reporters were White.
According to statistics the majority of NCAA revenue is produced by a small percentage of athletes and a solid ninety percent of those are Black.
Yet Black people as a whole fail to benefit economically, or professionally from an activity that people that who look like them predominate. How is that consistent with the American rules of fair play?
Ironically, the sports world loves to tell stories about successful NCAA athletes coming from impoverished neighborhoods, but ignore the fact that their schools are also a special kind of ghetto depriving kids of their just due.
While some have called the NCAA a racket, or a plantation it is more consistent with colonialism. Big time college sports is a paternalistic kind of colonialism that portends that the NCAA knows what is best for our young people, yet rip them off, while pretending to have their best interest at heart, with its phony regulations and hypocritical and selective enforcement of their rules.
If a society is judged by the way it treats its youth, then the spectacle that is the Final Four is a condemnation of the US and its social/economic/political system. No matter where one falls in the argument, the NCAA’s designation of its workers as “student-athlete” and amateur should be declared illegal. As it presently stands this arrangement is unethical,unfair, unjust and immoral.
justice then peace