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 #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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