The Ball and Chain
The term, “student athlete” is a polarizing one. In today’s America, college sports -- particularly football and basketball, are as much a part of the sports enthusiast’s landscape as is any professional sport. In any case, with enthusiasm comes money. In this case, billions of dollars are generated by television viewership, merchandise sales and university boosters. College athletes are the driving force behind an industry where television executives, university presidents, athletic directors and coaches are compensated in a manner which makes them among the most wealthy people in the world. The athletes receive in return an education from a well respected university, along with name and sometimes facial recognition in their fields of interest. However, the student on a physics scholarship receives the same opportunity for education and name recognition in his field that the athlete does. The difference is, the physics student isn’t selling millions of dollars worth of jerseys. The physics student is also allowed to pursue compensation for applying his craft as he sees fit while enrolled at the university while the athlete is not allowed to work or even accept perks brought about by his celebrity. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) serves as the oppressive monopoly which seeks to capitalize on the dreams of young athletes by requiring their servitude, likeness and name in exchange for the slimmest of opportunities to attract employment in their field of interest. Like any other oppressor or monopoly that came before it, the NCAA should be abolished and replaced with a model that is mindful of equality, as well as human and civil rights. The NCAA has blocked every road that an athlete may have to capitalize on his hard work during his time at his respective university. Only recently has the legality of such roadblocks been challenged. Due to its litany of regulations designed to stifle player movement or compensation, many, such as Pulitzer prize winning author and historian Taylor Branch, have argued that the current structure of the NCAA rivals that of a slave plantation or drug cartel. Branch scoffs at the correlation between the terms “student athlete” and “amateur,” stating in an article in The Atlantic, “No legal definition of amateur exists, and any attempt to create one in enforceable law would expose its repulsive and unconstitutional nature -- a bill of attainder, stripping from college athletes the rights of American citizenship.” (Branch 2). At the heart of that argument is the question, what constitutes an employee?” Black’s Law dictionary defines “employee” as “a person in the service of another under any contract of hire, expressed or implied, oral or written, where the employer has the power or right to control or direct the employee in the material details of how the work is to be performed” (Muhl 2). An athletic scholarship is clear example of a written contract which both overtly and implicitly stipulates that the school is willing to exchange an education for the athlete’s services on the school’s sports team. But until 2012, when the NCAA failed to ratify a ban on multi year scholarships that had been in place since 1973, it was illegal for a school to guarantee an athlete a complete education. The NCAA limited schools to one year pacts with athletes Of the 330 schools that cast a ballot in the 2012 vote, 205 voted against four-year scholarships, including lucrative football empires Texas, LSU, and Alabama. Though 62.1 percent of schools voted for the one-year status quo, a supermajority of 62.5 percent was needed to maintain the ban on four-year scholarships (Levin 1). While it is now permissible to grant four year athletic scholarships, it is not required or even recommended by the NCAA. Schools are free to continue offering recruits one year scholarships so as to maintain leverage over them in case they fail to perform up to expectations. Due to schools dangling...
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