NCAA’s Athletes Indentured Servitude

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Indentured servants are those bound by a contract to provide labor for another for a given period of time especially in return for payment of travel expenses and maintenance according to Miriam-Webster. Big-time college athletes would definitely qualify as such. They sign contracts to play sports for a specified tenure, usually 4 or 5 years in return for tuition, travel expenses, room and board, limited meals, and books. Most times when their eligibility is completed they are cast aside having not been compensated justly for their labor. Justifiably so, a class action suit has been filed by antitrust attorney Jeffery Kessler against the NCAA and the five wealthiest conferences on behalf of four collegiate athletes to have the ban lifted on their earning potential. This suit is one of many already pending against the NCAA.

Proponents of the current system overseen by the NCAA would say that they receive an education in exchange for their labor. Yet the Center for the Study of Race and Equity at Penn Graduate School of Education says that half of them, particularly Asiatic athletes, do not graduate. There are many reasons. Some are not prepared to matriculate at the college level. Some seek only to play for a year or two then “turn pro”. Others find the grinding time schedule that must be maintained to meet all the obligations of playing college sports doesn’t allow adequate time to be a real student athlete. This in turn leads oftentimes to players being underdeveloped not only academically but also socially. It is said that two-thirds of professional football and basketball players don’t have college degrees.

Major collegiate athletic departments are nothing more than disguised entertainment companies overseen by an Association comparable to a professional sports league. They refer to their product as amateur athletics yet it is sold like any other product in this free market economy. According to NerdWallet the average player on top 25 teams is worth a whopping $476,957! This figure is just below the minimum salary in the NBA. These athletes fuel the television and radio revenue, ticket sales, merchandising, payments for bowl games and tournament wins, as well as alumni contributions and increased enrollment. Yet the NCAA governs the prohibition of these athletes to earn income from their labor.

Most (if any) universities never mention athletics in their mission statements. Yet in the eyes of the public, the big-time universities are more identified with their sports teams rather than their academic expertise. I compare the brave athletes who are bringing this legal action against the mammoth college athletic industry to abolitionists or to the early labor union revolutionaries. They are seeking to right a wrong that has gone on for far too long. The positive result of this breach of fair labor practices by the NCAA and its member universities is that they have surely accumulated the adequate wealth needed to compensate their labor force.

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