There was a dark time in our history when a certain group of people were terribly oppressed. In exchange for years of sweat, they were given only food and a tiny room to call their own. They did backbreaking work for no pay while the old white guys who ordered them around got rich off their labor.
The time is now. I am talking about college athletes.
College basketball and football generate $billions for universities. And yet, somehow, colleges get away with paying the players nothing. It’s a system of exploitation that is unique in the United States, and the terrific documentary “Schooled: The Price of College Sports” exposes it.
But wait, can’t players make money from advertising and licensing?
No, they’re not allowed to do that, either.
A basketball player can play EA Sports’s NCAA14 March Madness video game that features his name and his likeness. But he’ll have to play it on his roommate’s PS4 because the player himself can’t afford to buy the game. He didn’t get paid a dime.
If a Boston University English student writes a best-selling novel in her spare time and makes $100,000, she is the toast of the school. If the inside linebacker for BU gets paid $300 to film a commercial for Worcester Subaru, he has broken NCAA rules and will be suspended.
For some reason, there is systematic effort to ensure that college ballplayers remain dead broke.
But, wait, aren’t the players getting an education for free?
No, they aren’t.
Most kids who enroll in college don’t leave with a solid education. And the odds are even slimmer for those with athletic scholarships.
Athletes have hours of practice each day and hours in the gym when practice is over. They spend several weeks traveling for away games and can’t attend class.
If the school cared whether the athletes were getting an education, they’d hire professors to tutor the students on road trips.
When college athletes do have time to study, they’d be wise to study play books, not academics. If a player doesn’t perform on the field, the school has the right take back the scholarship – even if he is getting straight As in the classroom.
Meanwhile, a great athlete need not worry about losing his scholarship due to bad academic performance. The school simply will not let that happen.
I learned that first hand when I was a history teacher’s assistant at the University of Delaware. A young man – who never went to class – earned an F on a test. When the professor saw the “F,” he calmly informed me that the guy is on the football team and must never get a D or below. Period.
“Schooled” is a convincing documentary. It convinced me that the NCAA and every major university in the United States have banded together to form a cartel; a cartel that exists to make boatloads of money while ensuring that their employees are broke, ignorant and powerless.
For the record, I’m not pointing the figure at anyone. I am just as much to blame for this system of exploitation as anyone else. I happily watched March Madness last weekend. And I gave that football player a C-.