By Ken Reed
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the most famous college athletes ever. Jabbar, Lew Alcindor at the time, led UCLA to multiple national basketball championships. Moreover, he helped make millions for the NCAA, UCLA, broadcasters, administrators, and others. Meanwhile, Jabbar’s income opportunities were tightly restricted thanks to the NCAA’s amateurism rules.
“We were the best team in the country, yet I was too broke to go out and celebrate,” wrote Abdul-Jabbar in a recent piece for Jacobin. “The more privileged students on academic scholarships were allowed to make money on the side, just not the athletes.
“And unlike those with academic scholarships, if we were injured and couldn’t play anymore, we lost our scholarships but still had medical bills to worry about. We were only as valuable as our ability to tote that ball and lift that score.”
As Abdul-Jabbar ably points out in this article, the situation today’s big-time college athletes face is much worse than when he played college basketball.
“Life for student-athletes is no longer the quaint Americana fantasy of the homecoming bonfire and a celebration at the malt shop,” says Jabbar.
“It’s big business in which everyone is making money — everyone except the eighteen to twenty-one-year-old kids who every game risk permanent career-ending injuries. … [T]he NCAA, television broadcasters, and the colleges and universities are making a lot more money.
The NCAA rakes in nearly $1 billion annually from its March Madness contract with CBS and Turner Broadcasting.
- The NCAA president made $1.7 million in 2012.
- The ten highest paid coaches in this year’s March Madness earn between $2,627,806 and $9,682,032.
“Management argues that student-athletes receive academic scholarships and special training worth about $125,000. While that seems like generous compensation, it comes with some serious restrictions:
- College athletes on scholarship are not allowed to earn money beyond the scholarship. Yet students on academic scholarships are allowed to earn extra money.
- The NCAA allows the scholarship money to be applied only toward tuition, room and board, and required books. On average, this is about $3,200 short of what the student need.
- Academic scholarships provide for school supplies, transportation, and entertainment. Athletic scholarships do not.
- Athletic scholarships can be taken away if the player is injured and can’t contribute to the team anymore. He or she risks this possibility every game.
- The injustice worsens when we realize that the millionaire coaches are allowed to go out and earn extra money outside their contracts. Many do, acquiring hundreds of thousands of dollars a year beyond their already enormous salaries.”
How can this situation be fair? Abdul-Jabbar argues strongly and persuasively that it’s not.
— 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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