Stop it, NCAA. Just @!$#ing stop it already. The only reason you exist is to
rob and restrict the freedoms of schedule games and what-not for college athletes. And yes, “college athletes” is a perfectly appropriate term. “College” is an adjective describing a person that is a member of a college (see “college kid”, “college professor”, etc), and athlete is a noun indicating a human being that competes in an individual or team sport, so stop mangling the English language to pretend you think of college athletes as students first. You are embarrassing yourself.
Led by former player Kain Colter, members of Northwestern University’s football team have created and joined the first ever union for college athletes, the College Athletes Players Association, which has petitioned the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.1 It’s about time.
Specifics of the union’s demands, and how likely they are to receive them, are beyond the scope of my rage. By all means, Google the specifics yourself. With only a basic understanding of the picture, it is clear to see that college athletes are right to ask for some benefits of the enormous wealth that they themselves are ultimately responsible for providing.
But the NCAA is a non-profit, and makes it all possible.
Please. Colleges played sporting matches against one another before 1906. And in 2014, Michigan and Ohio would still find a way to play football against one another, even if the NCAA were not around. And there would still be thousands of people willing to buy tickets to such a game, and millions more excited to watch it on television. And do not confuse “non-profit” for “our employees do not make nor care about money”. Mark Emmert, current NCAA president, earned $1.7 million in 2011.2 Other upper executives also brought in salaries well into the high six figures.
But the athletes already receive room, board, and a college education.
Cool! Who else receives that? All college students everywhere (some opt out of the housing and/or meal plans). Most non-athlete college students pay for those goods and services, but many do not; there are non-athletic scholarships and grants. The thing is, at some schools, especially Division I sports powerhouses, athletes do not only receive value, but actually add value to the institution they play for. Non-athletes can do this too, by going on to win a Nobel prize, or becoming wealthy and donating millions back to their school, whatever, but let’s agree that, at least at some schools, on average an athlete adds far more value than a non-athlete. And far more than an athlete receives in return. For in return, athletes receive no additional benefits.
Wait, what about fame and exposure? That’s a benefit exclusive to athletes.
And their entire “athletics reputation”! Any potential benefits a player might receive due to being a college athlete are ALL owned by the NCAA.
Well… wow that’s messed up.
Okay, but is it really a big deal? How much money are we talking about?
The EA Sports NCAA Football video game, which has just been discontinued this season as a result of college athletes such as Ed O’Bannon sticking up for themselves, grossed around $200 million a year in sales.3 In 2011, CBS-Turner collectively bought the broadcast rights for every March Madness NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball championship tournament game through 2025 for 10.8 BILLION DOLLARS.
Haha. Did you know Aaron Sorkin is rumored to direct “Lean In”?
Actually, yes! But don’t call me unless Justin Timberlake gets involved. Or maybe just Andrew Garfield. Ah, hell with it, Facebook is still relevant enough to merit a watch. Speaking of good investments, that $10.8 billion spent by the CBS-Turner partnership already looks good, given that a 30 second commercial during a lowly first round game costs $100,000, with a single ad in the Final Four selling for $700,000 and one spot in the championship game fetching $1.45 million (that is, $1,450,000).4 ESPN bowed out to CBS-Turner for March Madness, but during this month’s Bowl Championship Series national championship football game between Auburn and Florida State, ESPN sold 30 second commercials for $1 million a pop.5 College athletes generate enormous amounts of wealth, billions of dollars every year, and receive none of it.
Alright! But how could a university pay its students to provide a service?
Do colleges routinely compensate students for working in labs or libraries?
They do, don’t they! It’s only college athletes who get screwed!
That’s right! In fact, it gets even better because with hours of practices and games every week, college athletes have even less time to balance work alongside school!
At least these guys will end up making millions in the pros anyway.
No, they will not. Only a select few will make it as professional athletes. There are 1,696 active NFL players on a given Sunday. Veterans retain most of them, and each year only a fraction of roster spots become available for rookies. There are roughly 14,375 college football players in the BCS, with a quarter (or so) of them graduating every season. As the NCAA loves to tout in their absurd “student first” commercials, almost all college athletes go pro in something other than sports. But that does not stop the NCAA for milking them for billions of dollars in network and endorsement deals, redistributed in six and seven-figure salaries to men and women no one is interested in watching on national television.
Gosh, what a bunch of hacks.
And then, in response to the unionization of some college athletes attempting to actually receive just some of the wealth they earn, the NCAA’s chief legal officer, Donald Remy, says this:
This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education. Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.
Many student athletes are provided scholarships and many other benefits for their participation. There is no employment relationship between the NCAA, its affiliated institutions or student-athletes.
Student-athletes are not employees within any definition of the National Labor Relations Act or the Fair Labor Standards Act. We are confident the National Labor Relations Board will find in our favor, as there is no right to organize student-athletes.
What legally defines an employee will be argued a lot in the coming months and years, but come on. Anyone with enough of a brain to go to college at least on some level knows that college is NOT about getting an education. Rather, college is about improving one’s lifetime expected income, via getting an education, acquiring expertise valued in the job market, networking, etc, in order to have a successful career. The NCAA restricts college athletes from using their status (and even their own name!) to help them do precisely those things, which is ridiculous. And how dare Remy throw the word “voluntary” out there like it means something? Employer-employee contracts tend to be voluntary. Employees choose to apply to jobs, to work at them, and to leave them.
If the NCAA cared primarily about college education, they would not behave this way.
Exactly! The NCAA is just a bunch of greedy old farts raking it in from a bunch of young adults who by and large work much harder, and face much greater risks to their physical and mental health. Meanwhile, an antiquated convention dictates that in return, NCAA athletes get a college education of far less value than what they provide.
#@!%ing stop it, NCAA. Just stop it already, would you?
- http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-01-28/sports/chi-northwestern-football-players-labor-union-20140128_1_basketball-players-labor-union-national-labor-relations-board ↩
- http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/college/2013/07/10/ncaa-mark-emmert-salary-million-tax-return/2505667/ ↩
- http://csri-jiia.org/documents/puclications/research_articles/2013/JIIA_2013_6_4_57_80_Digital_Rep.pdf ↩
- http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/nothing-net-march-madness-winning-investment-139073 ↩
- http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/threads_and_laces/2014/01/whats-on-the-line-nike-bcs-title-game.html ↩