March Madness Action Was Great But Economic Injustice For the Players Continues
By Ken Reed
From a pure on-the-field/on-the-court sports perspective, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is my favorite sporting event of the year.
However, my enjoyment is always tempered by the fact the athletes producing all the exciting action are getting exploited.
The NCAA rakes in approximately a billion dollars on the tournament every year. NCAA president Mark Emmert makes about $4 million a year. The coaches and athletic directors from the bigger schools in The Dance make millions as well. Yet, the players will go back to campus (or wherever they take their online classes) and settle for tuition and room-and-board (and maybe a slight stipend). Now, a college education is nothing to scoff at (unless the athletes are all placed in stereotypical basket-weaving courses). But it simply isn’t fair and just compensation.
As civil-rights historian Taylor Branch so aptly put it, the NCAA is a classic case study in economic injustice and the denial of basic civil rights to athletes. (A must read. See: “ The Shame of College Sports”)
Big-time college athletes are professionals in every way except when it comes to their economic and civil rights. Those rights are withheld by the NCAA so that coaches, athletic administrators, NCAA television partners and game announcers can take in the dough created by the athletes on the NCAA’s football fields and basketball courts.
The mission of the NCAA, and the behemoth athletic departments on campuses across the nation, isn’t education. And it’s not the safety and protection of the athletes (which was the original mission of the NCAA). The mission of the NCAA is the same as the NFL, NBA and MLB: revenue generation.
College athletes are fed up with the current system. Numerous players have recently been using the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty on their social media accounts. Some of the players in this year’s NCAA tourney talked about sitting out or delaying tournament games. Players from 15 teams competing in this year’s tournament released a list of demands near the start of the tourney, in cooperation with The National College Players Association (NCPA). Their demands included abolishing NCAA rules that prevent athletes from securing representation, and being allowed to receive payment for the use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL). Hardly outlandish demands/
College sports certainly pay well for some people, just not the athletes putting on the show. It’s long past time for that to end.
Alas, the end may be on the horizon. Last week the Supreme Court took up the issue in Alston v. NCAA. Several justices came down hard on the NCAA, its representatives, and the morally-bankrupt NCAA system of profiting outrageously off the backs of its unpaid athletes.
We’ll see how this case plays out, but there’s hope.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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