Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NCAA Is Not a Dictatorship, Despite Players' Union

Sometimes, it's your language choices that end the argument.

Such is the case with the most recent news in the argument that the NCAA should "pay student athletes" because it is profiting from their hard work - at least that's true for football and basketball players. (Clearly, the lacrosse players and swimmers should continue to exist in servitude because they don't pull in huge TV revenue.) In the latest salvo over oppressed student athletes, the Northwestern football team aligned itself with labor leaders in Chicago in calling for a union to represent these "workers." While the proposed union was not simply about "pay-for-play," student-athlete representative - and Northwestern QB - Kain Colter basically lost the argument when he called the NCAA "a dictatorship."

Kain, this metaphor fails on a dramatic scale, and it is an insult to all people who are currently suffering under true oppression. Student athletes - especially football and basketball players at major universities - are living a life of luxury compared to millions of people living under the brutal control of despots and dictators. People who are basically compensated with an opportunity for an expensive education - potentially worth a quarter of a million dollars - while being academically supported beyond the wildest dreams of the average student have no idea what oppression is. And, it is wildly inappropriate to imply so. It is as patently absurd as Prince writing "Slave" on his cheek over a record contract with Warner Bros. that paid him tens of millions of dollars.

Certainly, NCAA rules regarding student-athlete compensation must be altered dramatically. Student athletes are greatly inhibited from earning spending money by the demands on their time. They should be able to get jobs, or perhaps earn a stipend in some way that enables them to "eat when dorms aren't open" or be able to afford the basic amenities and fun of college. However, for most star players, like Colter, who are on full ride scholarships and come from middle class families, the issue of "spending money" shouldn't be an issue when the family has been excused from room, board, and tuition.  Beyond that, student-athletes are not employees and shouldn't be treated as such.

Perhaps, it is time to divest college football and basketball from the colleges themselves. It certainly is time to divest the NCAA from its tax exempt status based on an "educational mission."

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