Dr. Boyce: The NCAA Continues to Pimp Students and the Rest of Us

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

NCAA athletics has become the new prohibition – the illogical construct that creates a destructive underground economy because leadership is being guided by an illusion of what should be, rather than confronting the NCAA for what it really is: a professional sports league. Some of our most highly educated figures within academia are forced to convince themselves that a multi-billion dollar sports entertainment behemoth should be able to get away with not paying its primary employees.

The smart white men running the NCAA also took enough history classes to easily see the parallels with slavery:  An oppressive and unethical institution that everyone knows to be a farce, yet it continues to survive because it would be entirely too costly to shut it down. It’s hard to walk away from a billion dollars per year, even if you have to be a criminal and pathological liar in order to protect it. Actually, the NCAA earns more ad revenue in March Madness than the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball earn during their post-seasons; that much money would tempt any of us to become crooks.

NCAA athletes are not slaves, we know this, but exploitation is a continuum, not a dichotomy. Even the five-year old child working in a Chinese sweat shop has the right to stay home from work if he chooses to do so. But staying home would be to his family’s detriment. If one allows the beast of capitalism to operate in an unregulated manner, we quickly find that allegedly free human beings are ultimately left with no option but to work for an unfair wage. While the NCAA spends millions monitoring the choices of college athletes, almost no one monitors the actions of the NCAA to ensure that their labor practices are consistent with American values – as a result, they are as un-American as Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

NCAA President Mark Emmert, who earns nearly a million dollars per year off the families of NCAA athletes, has maintained the lie of the league by stating publicly that college athletes will not be paid under his regime. He’s the latest overseer in a system that loves the idea that in a racist society like this one, Black men should be happy with whatever scraps you choose to give them. He and others are allowed to get away with their exploitation because most Americans are as unoffended by the exploitation of Black families as they are by the slaughtering of chickens at KFC.

“I don’t see why they should get anything more than what I get,” says the typical white kid on any campus USA. “They already get special treatment and I’m sick of it. I’d love to be able to go to school for free.”

Well, I would tell that kid this: As soon as you grow to be seven feet tall and can score 20 points per game on a nationally televised show that draws 10 million viewers and $30 million dollars in revenue, then I’ll speak up for your mother too. I’ve always been amazed at how the nerdy Chemistry major somehow believes that he’s made as strong of a financial contribution to the university as the basketball star who draws tens of millions of dollars in advertising. If that’s the case, then I should be paid the same as Will Smith.

It’s interesting that the same NCAA administrators who stand adamantly against the idea of compensating a family for their child’s labor have no problem collecting their own massive salaries every year. If coaches, administrators and commentators are not interested in taking a vow of poverty, then athletes’ families should not have to do so either. The notion that an administrator or coach deserves to be fairly compensated while the individual doing the work does not is nothing more than the same second class citizenship that African Americans have faced for the last 400 years – simply asking for equality is out of the question.

So, not only does the NCAA continue to pimp the athletes, it also pimps the rest of us. Their multi-million dollar ad campaigns (again, financed by the labor of the athletes) have convinced us that it’s scandalous when a player (worth over $10 million dollars to his university) signs autographs in exchange for a free tattoo (as with the suspended players from Ohio State last year). They paint “street agents” who share money with an athlete’s struggling family as criminals, while simultaneously making it clear that they could care less if the player’s mother and siblings starve to death. They’ve convinced us that they are the good guys — the benevolent overseers who are giving these pathetic Negroes something that is a far cry better than anything these kids could get from “the hood.”

While NCAA officials might hope our response would be, “Thank you massa, that’s mighty kind of you,” a better reaction might be, “Why am I doing all the work and you’re keeping all the money?” But then again, there’s a reason slave owners didn’t want slaves to learn how to read — it’s for the same reason NCAA administrators want Black men focused on bling, women and fame rather than intricate business models and labor rights. When an oppressed group of people start asking hard questions, it makes for a very uncomfortable conversation.

The bottom line is that NCAA athletes deserve the same labor rights as the rest of us. They should also be able to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. There is no logical reason why athletes shouldn’t receive liberties that are freely given to those who aren’t doing the work to earn the money.

Slavery didn’t end because slave owners decided to do the right thing. It ended because those who’d become possessed by the demons of capitalism had their power forcibly taken away from them. Athletes, parents and concerned citizens must file lawsuits, organize, protest and refuse to play until they are fairly compensated. Money and power are typically not given away without a fight, and if you’re not willing to fight for your freedom, then you do not truly deserve it.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  He is also the founder of ALARM, the Athlete Liberation Academic Reform Movement.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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  3. My company gets billions but I get paid a salary. My sister was a student athlete and while all of her friends are paying off student loans she has a degree paid for by her talent and athletic ability. Here's the problem football players get treated as if they ARE professionals and lose sight of why they are really there. It is a facility of higher education and the billion dollar enterprise is supported by the alumni who fuel the fire by confusing these young men that they should be getting more. The pros is where athletes make their money college is where they secure their future if the pros don't work out.

    • Except when you have coaches and staffs looking at an athlete's money-making potential (for them of course) harder and more intently than they are looking out for that player's well-being, both on and off the field. Colleges are unscrupulous in their money-grubbing as well. I've personally seen everything from fielding players knowing they were too hurt to play, to steering them away from majors that would 'make it hard to keep up with the training schedule' to indebting the general student body through revenue bonds in order to expand a facility or stadium. The NFL/NBA should both be fall-back strategies, but that is definitely not how they are marketed.

  4. Although you are welcome to your perspective on the NCAA, I agree with only a small portion of the things you have mentioned in your article. This issue is not a black or white thing. I agree more with what Chris and Johnnie are saying. The athletes have a choice. They do not need to go to the colleges and universities to make their mark in their chosen sports. If they want to get paid, then this should not be an avenue of choice. Note that their hard work does help the institution to fund other sports and atheletic and academic scholarships for many, many other students. Also, if they understood the history of athletics, they would know that they are simply modern day gladiators. Go pro. Buy a social and financial education and make the best of that is simply what I suggest. Skip the middle man. Simple and forthright is how I view my perspective.

  5. Nah High schools and ESPN are the ones really pimping students. college do give you a choice weather to stay or leave. hight schools and there coaches sets the kids and the parents up.ESPN makes millions the school makes money the high school kid gets a pair of sneaks , a jersey and 15 min fame. When he gets home he might not have food on the table. To all parents who is starving and letting their kid play on tv. Run DMC siad it best. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.

  6. Some interesting opinions and ideas here, but where is the factual research backing it up? Where are the surveys of NCAA athletes (black or white) saying they feel treated this way? And like Chris said, no one is forcing them to any of this. They do it because they want it–the glory, the fame, the thrills.

    Besides, why so certain the NCAA is the cause of all this? Couldn’t one argue that the NCAA has been trying to protect the purity of the sport all along, and it’s the media, the fans, and the big corporations who have made it this billion dollar enterprise?

    In any event, no one is forced to go to college, I don’t think. If these guys are really worthy of millions of dollars, then certainly they’re able to go pro right out of high school.

    So here’s an idea for some real research: it be great if someone could compare the ultimate life and success outcomes, not to mention lifetime financial intake, of black (and/or white) athletes in two categories: 1) those who become “slaves” as star athletes in the NCAA, and 2) those who go pro right out of high school. I know which group I’ll be placing my bet on.

  7. Because the only athletes not getting paid in college sports are black??? I think not. Most of these analogies break down when you consider the fact there are far more athletes not getting paid than just the black ones.

  8. One of the greatest rights an American has is the right to make their own decision without being punished. If the black athletes feel they are being objectified and used, then dont take the scholarship and pay their own way to school or dont go at all. They do not have to attend some of the greatest institutes in the world to do what they love while being given the opportunity to gain an incredible education. Keep preaching Watkins. Take away the only opportunity some of these kids will ever have to improve their standing in life.

    Dont forget. That nerdy white kid who studies chemistry will be the one paying taxes so schools can pay for your “exploited” black athletes. That nerdy white kid will contribute more to society than any thug athlete you seem to idolize. Your values are jacked, Black Man.

    I played college baseball and was treated better than I deserved. The true stars were treated like kings. I would do it over again without recieving a dime as would most who played. Watkins, keep your fat non-athete ass out of NCAA politics and stick to causing racial divide with your blogs.

  9. suggested reading: 40 Million-Dollar Slaves. I have lived the ideological and fiscal conundrum that is big-name college sports, and in many ways this article is dead on. It's not a completely racial issue, but the reality is that it is definitely a financially exploitative system that leaves more men broken and broke than it exalts.

  10. this dude is a black kkk.

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  12. This is the most racists hunk of shit I've ever read. This entire website needs to be taken away. Good lord.

    • What did you find racist..could you be more specific? If you seriously found this article to be racist then maybe you should move over to the Fox News site to be among those who share your opinion. If you didn't notice this site is called YourBlackWorld for a reason..its from a black perspective. Not saying that whites wouldn't understand or agree with the content of the article..but to say this is the most racist article you've ever read suggest you're naive or just plain stupid. Just saying….

    • What does Fox News have to do with me and my opinion. you know nothing about me, except for the fact that I believe this article is extremely condescending and racist. The fact that you agree with this and make wild assumptions only means that you are just as low as this entire website and article. "NCAA President Mark Emmert, who earns nearly a million dollars per year off the families of NCAA athletes". That my friend is racists and bias. It's black people that go onto these sites and take in this garbage as fact, they are the ones that ruin it for the rest of us. African Americans need to wake up and stop thinking the world owes us something. That is completely ridiculous. I am sick of it.

  13. This is the most racists hunk of shit I've ever read. This entire website needs to be taken away. Good lord.

  14. I've come to believe that higher education was one of the greatest lies ever sold! Education for the sake of educating oneself to the ways of the world is definitely a necessity, but to say that it will lead to a better life is straight B.S. I know college grads with Master's Degrees workin' hourly gigs…or worse!