By Ken Reed
In a courtroom last month in Chicago, a National Labor Relations Board panel listened to testimony about whether or not football players should have the right, as de facto employees, to collectively bargain.
The hearing evolved from an effort led by Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter to form what would be in effect a union, the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA). The focus of the hearing was whether or not college football players can be, or should be, classified as university employees. Lawyers representing CAPA argued yes. They pointed out the 50-hour weeks, contracts and compensation in the form of scholarships, and the fact players can lose their scholarships if they don’t perform well or abide by team regulations.
Sounds like a job to me.
In fact, college athletics has been a job ever since the NCAA allowed scholarships in 1950. When that happened, colleges began to pay athletes on the basis of their athletic ability. Prior to that, college sports were played by students who participated in athletics as an extracurricular activity. Once the NCAA allowed financial aid based solely on athletic ability, the athletes became employees who also attended classes.
What we have today is a system in which Division I and II athletes have their compensation capped in the form of a scholarship. (Division III colleges aren’t allowed to offer financial aid based on athletic ability. Basically, they maintained the pre-1950 rule, i.e., all aid at that level is need-based.)
The hypocrisy in college athletics today is the result of an untenable system that promotes the amateur myth and tries to suppress the fact that the young athletes that fill the seats at football stadiums and basketball arenas on our college campuses have significant market value.
“The plight of college athletes is definitely a civil rights issue,” says civil rights historian Taylor Branch.
“The governance of college sports is a civil rights issue because the athletes are citizens and are being denied their rights by what amounts to collusion. Colleges are telling football and basketball players they can’t get anything above a college scholarship. The athletes are being conned out of their rights. We need modern abolitionists to fight this unjust and unstable system.”
Why can’t college athletes benefit financially based on their skills like every other student on campus?
“Is it so ignoble for a college athlete to make money off his her talent and fame?” asks sports and culture writer Patrick Hruby.
“Nobody in America has to deal with the restrictions on income that the NCAA imposes. Actors and musicians can go off to college, be on scholarship, and still make money off their talent. It’s morally wrong, and un-American, to prevent athletes from doing the same.”
Well said, Mr. Hruby. Well said.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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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
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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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