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


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.