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 #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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