While watching the exciting Michigan vs. Villanova basketball game on ESPN last night I began to think about whether or not these players should be paid. The game was the championship of the Legend Classic tournament and was played at the Barclays Center in New York. Even though it was an early season game, it probably generated a good amount of money for both programs and for ESPN. The dispute over whether or not college athletes should be paid is a very complex issue with strong arguments for both sides and there is no clear-cut answer to the issue for most people.
However, it seems as though Marx and Engels would have a definite opinion on the issue. In the first chapter of the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels say that society has been broken down into two different classes, the proletariat and the bourgeois. Marx and Engels describe the relationship between the proletariat and the bourgeois as an oppressive relationship. The bourgeois are the powerful class and they employ the proletariat. However, they only give the proletariat enough, in exchange for work, so that they can survive, but never advance higher in society. However, without the proletariat the bourgeois would not have any money or power because there wealth comes from the work of the proletariat. This makes the proletariat the revolutionary class according to Marx and Engels because if they all come together and revolt against the bourgeois, the bourgeois would fall and the system would break. Marx and Engels then say that after being oppressed for so long the proletariat would create a socialist society where all members receive equal pay and power.
In the case of NCAA sports Marx and Engels would consider the NCAA and the universities as the bourgeois and the college athletes as the proletariat. Marx and Engels would say that the NCAA oppresses the players by making huge profits off them. The NCAA makes around six billion dollars annually. They would also say that the NCAA and universities compensate athletes similarly to the bourgeois, in that they give them scholarships which provide them with housing, food and education, but this is nothing compared to the amount of money they make off players. It is only enough to keep the players healthy and ready to keep playing and making money for the universities and the NCAA. However, like the proletariat, Marx and Engels would argue that collegiate athletes could be revolutionary. If all athletes refused to play in games until they were paid it would break the system and lead to the fall of the NCAA because it would not be able to make any money if college players refused to play. Marx and Engels would encourage this and tell the players to demand that they all receive equal profits for their play.
Marx and Engels provide us with an interesting view on the issue of whether or not college athletes should be paid. Although I find it highly unlikely that players will revolt and refuse to play in games, it does seem possible that in the future we might see college players being paid.