By Ken Reed
According to the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice (IIPSJ), social justice is best defined as (1) inclusion of everyone in the full benefits of society and (2) empowerment of people to participate fully in the economic, social, and cultural life of the country.
That definition is the antithesis of of how the NCAA treats college athletes in this country.
Former UCLA basketball star, Ed O’Bannon has been fighting for social and economic justice in college sports for several years. With the help of well-known social reform lawyer, Michael Hausfeld, and other former NCAA athletes, O’Bannon filed suit against the NCAA, EA Sports, and the Collegiate Licensing Company in 2009. The suit has had numerous starts and stops since, however, the latest hearing in the case, scheduled for today, might be the biggest yet. Not only could the suit be allowed to move forward, it might soon gain class action status.
To be sure, NCAA administrators are sweating bullets today. And justifiably so. Big-time college sports are a huge moneymaker, one that the athletes that create the product aren’t allowed to participate in.
We’re talking about real marketplace value here, too.
According to a study led by Ellen Staurowsky, a professor at Drexel University, the fair market value of a football player at the University of Texas for the 2011-12 school year would be $567,922 annually. The calculation was based on an NFL-like shared revenue system. The value of a “full-ride” athletic scholarship at Texas was $21,090 a year. As such, the fair market value denied (the difference between the fair market value and the value of the scholarship) was $546,832.
The Texas football team generated $103.8 million in revenue. The cost of scholarships was $1.8 million (pretty cheap workforce, huh?). That leaves a lot of money left to blow on lavish facilities and for boosting the salaries of NCAA execs, coaches, administrators, and team chefs in the athletes’ dorms.
While big-time athletic directors and coaches talk about their “student-athletes” and the importance of their educational values, the reality is athletic department policies and decisions are increasingly being made based on entertainment business objectives. We’re left with a college sports system that — at the highest levels especially — is lacking in integrity and filled with hypocrisy.
“College athletes are citizens and their rights are being deprived by the NCAA in a way that’s basically collusion,” says civil rights historian and author Taylor Branch. “The NCAA system is not only unjust, it’s unstable.”
The O’Bannon lawsuit could be the catalyst that changes the entire NCAA system.
“June 20 is the most important day in amateur athletics history,” according to former sports marketing executive and chief NCAA critic Sonny Vaccaro. “If we get to court [with the O’Bannon case], the American public will see the hypocrisy. They will see that very few people over the years controlled thousands of kids and millions and millions of dollars and no one knows who they are, or what they do.”
It’s time the they found out.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site. We discuss his experience at the MLB game at Field of Dreams; his thoughts on the appeal of the Field of Dreams, and baseball in general.
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Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
Episode #11 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Latest on Brain Trauma, Concussions and CTE with Dr. Chris Nowinski – Nowinski is CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO.
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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