In their 2004 article for The Nation, Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier describe athletes speaking out against injustice. Some of the influential professions mentioned include Adonal Foyle and Steve Nash of the NBA, as well as Tiger Woods and Billie Jean King. Candaele and Dreier argue that there is a lack of athlete activism today, and I would agree that this is true. While recent events have inspired protests from athletes, like members of the St. Louis Rams, there are few athletes willing to speak out. College athletes are usually even less apt to speak out, because their futures often rely on scholarships that can be taken away.
Earlier this year, in April, members of the University of Northwestern football team broke that trend. They made an effort to unionize their team, and take their treatment into their own hands. The effort is still very much ongoing, and is being fought by the NCAA. There has been plenty of controversy in recent years over the NCAA treatment of players. Schools and the Association profit heavily off of the use of player names and likenesses, but the players themselves never see any of this money. We read earlier in the semester about Ed O’Bannon, the former UCLA
basketball player suing the NCAA over the continued use of his name and likeness. The Northwestern players represent a different situation, and a change in tone. They are current student-athletes taking aggressive action against what they see to be an injustice. Previously, most athletes to speak out on any institutional issue have been former players like Ed O’Bannon, or the NFL players suing the league over head injuries.
According to the Grantland article we read about Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit, athletes are more or less required to help their institutions profit from the use of their images. It is hard to argue that this is not exploitation. In fact, exploitation is defined as “the action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.” By this definition, the NCAA is surely exploiting its student-athletes. They make sure that athletes create revenue for them, and they do this by playing their sports. While some have stood against it, there are too many who have not. Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier’s call for more athletes to stand up is as relevant as ever. The more athletes to call for justice, at any level of sport, the better off everyone will be.