Exploitation in College Athletics

Ed O'Bannon (via Grantland)

Ed O’Bannon (via Grantland)

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.

(via USA Today)

(via USA Today)

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

A Northwestern player before the union vote (via the Associated Press)

A Northwestern player before the union vote (via the Associated Press)

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.

3 thoughts on “Exploitation in College Athletics

  1. I liked your post. I think most people over look the fact that college athletes are people and that they want to be more than commodities used for profit by universities. Athletes should be required to “help” colleges but when does the “help” that they providing become too much? The amount of money that sports bring into universities surpasses the benefits giving to athletes.

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  2. As much as I would like to support the athletes being paid movement, I just think that there’s just too many logistics and hoops to jump through to make it a reality. How do you split up the money between sports teams/athletes? Do better athletes get paid more? Are bigger schools like Alabama able to pay their players more than a place like Eastern Michigan? How much do you pay players? Aren’t players being compensated enough with scholarships?
    As far as players being paid for their likeness, I am completely on board. Universities and the NCAA should not be able to profit on a player’s jersey or by using them in a video game without compensating them. As we have seen though, the NCAA would rather discontinue its video game series instead of compensating its players.

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  3. As much as a feel like athletes should be paid, but it just sounds like a difficult and logistically complicated thing to do. I personally think that this conflict is one of the most muddy conflicts to this day, mainly due to there not being one clear cut answer that can please everyone, particularly at schools that aren’t D1. Personally, I think there should be some form of compensation in terms of tuition, but thats just my opinion.

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