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 #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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