By Ken Reed

The University of Michigan football team is getting $2.25 million to be featured in a “Hard Knocks”-like Amazon Prime Video documentary.

“We are proud to collaborate with Amazon Prime Video in documenting our University of Michigan student-athletes’ daily experiences and the lifelong lessons learned both on the football field and in the classroom,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh last month when the series was announced.

“We welcome judgment! We embrace this opportunity to showcase our 2017 University of Michigan football team to a vast audience around the world.”

There likely will be very little “judgment” of the Michigan program as this will amount to nothing more than a PR puff piece. The contractual agreement gives Michigan the right to “review” the episodes and edit out “any depiction that would constitute an actionable defamation or false light depiction of the University, the Team or any University Individual” before the episodes go on the air. So, in essence, they are getting paid $2.25 million for a series that will be worth millions more in positive free publicity.

Meanwhile, while the school pulls in this bonus revenue, the players won’t see any of it. Despite being the stars of the Michigan football team and producing the actual on-the-field product, Michigan players won’t see any of the money from the Amazon documentary. Under the NCAA’s archaic amateurism rules, they will be stuck with tuition, food and a place to sleep in the dorm despite having market value much greater than that. Power Five conference schools can also provide athletes a cost-of-attendance stipend that’s been infamously dubbed “the pizza stipend,” because it can cover a couple pizzas a week.

Talk about a case of economic injustice. The inequities in big-time college sports continue to worsen, not improve.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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