When Will Amateurism Die at the College Level?

Recently, while reading the article, “Dispatches From the NCAA’s Deathbed” I got to thinking, how much longer will amateurism last in college athletics? While thinking this I couldn’t help but link the course material reading for our PolySci class to a very similar topic which was discussed in a Sports Sociology class I took this semester.

In the article, “Dispatches From the NCAA’s Deathbed” they talked about Ed O’Bannon and his ongoing trial with the NCAA over the right to his name and likeness used in NCAA basketball video game. Ironically, in the video, “Schooled” they talked about the same trial. We watched this video for the sociology class I was taking and they talked about many interesting points, which relate to the, “Dispatches From the NCAA’s Deathbed” article.

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Ed O’Bannon on the cover of SI

Throughout the video the topic of athlete’s rights were discussed and whether or not these were being violated. Many people believed they were, and that athletes are performing for their universities, and bringing in huge profits, especially with football and basketball. In the video they also talk about how the NCAA cannot stay together forever operating under this “amateurism” code. Walter Byers, the man who invented the term “amateurism” and the athletic scholarship for the NCAA even was quoted towards the end of his life saying, “…the system cannot be upheld forever, today’s college athletic’s have become far too commercialized.” So this is the main problem here. The athletes are being cheated out of money for their performance, as well as their likeness, image, and name, as is the case with Ed O’Bannon.

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How much longer can the NCAA operate under the amateurism code?

The NCAA is crumbling and the Ed O’Bannon case may be the start of the downfall. In the article, “Dispatches From the NCAA’s Deathbed” they go on to talk about how things are not looking good for the NCAA due to the fact of that the judge, Claudia Wilken, will most likely not side with NCAA. She is not caught up in the politics of the NCAA and the connections that the commercial world has to the NCAA. She also just not very caught up in the sports world as well, being described in the article as “…not knowing all that much generally about sports.” So the sympathy for the NCAA is not there.

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Judge Wilken

Overall, the takeaway which I get from both this article and movie is that amateurism in the NCAA is a dying concept. It was created at a time where NCAA sports were not heavily entrenched with commercialistic undertones, taking advantage of student-athletes while making huge profits for themselves. In the end it is just a matter of time until student-athletes will be paid, in my opinion and according to the article and movie which I have described, it may be sooner than later.

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Jocks For Justice

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With the recent events in in New York and in Ferguson Missouri, there has been a lot of outrage in society. There has been no shortage of it when it comes to athletes too. This would have to definitely gone against what Kelly Candele and Peter Dreier wrote about in their article, “Where Are the Jocks for Justice?”. The article talks about the lack of athlete involvement when it comes to social justice issues. They give one example, Adonal Foyle, who started the “Democracy Matters” group to educate young people about politics and encourage them to vote. They then go on to talk about Steve Nash’s resistance to the Iraqi invasion, and how he wore a shirt that says, “No war, shoot for peace.” The article is a little outdated though, from 2004, and times have changed.

As I stated before, there is no shortage of athletes nowadays who are willing to take stances on social justice issues. This is especially apparent when it comes to the the very recent issue of the events in Ferguson, Missouri. I personally believe a big reason for this is for the advent of social media. The social media outlets of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have allowed all people, not just athletes to voice their opinion.

There have been many recent examples of this, with Lebron James posting this picture on Instagram, in protest of both the Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin incidents.

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Magic Johnson, vented his disbelief and anger through twitter posting this tweet.

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Serena Williams took to twitter to voice her opinion in this tweet.

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In the end, the “Where are the Jocks For Justice?” article in my opinion is obsolete nowadays. At the time that the article was written the biggest form of media was the television and the news, so although I’m sure athletes wanted to take certain stances on social justice issues, they really couldn’t, or just did not care to because the effort to do so was too hard. In current times, through the use of social media, we can see that athletes are very much so aware of social issues and do take stances on what they believe is wrong. So through the Ferguson case, we can see almost a sort of case study into how over just about 10 years times have changed, and now more than ever athletes and standing up for what they believe to be right, taking a stance, and voicing their opinions.

What Would Have MLK Thought of the Case of Eric Garner and Mike Brown?

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The year 2014 has been an eventful one when it has come to racial tensions. Over the summer two events occurred which have totally changed the racial landscape of America in the present. In July, an African American man, Eric Garner was outside a beauty salon, selling illegal cigarettes, trying to make a little extra money. The ensuing confrontation is video taped with Garner and the police. Garner can be seen as saying “leave me alone” and “it ends today” (referring to the constant badgering he would receive from the police.) What happens next we can see the policemen start to take him down, with what seems like unnecessary force. Towards the end of the video you can hear Garner, saying repeatedly in a muffled voice “I can’t breathe.” The following court case would yield a not guilty verdict on the part of the policeman who choked Garner out. (fast foward to 1:04 to see the actual video). 

A case which also had a huge ripple effect on the african american community occurred a month later with a young man named Michael Brown. Brown was seen on surveillance video, stealing from a connivence store right before his confrontation with policeman Darren Wilson. The account which Wilson provides is the confrontation had gotten physical, with Brown starting to attack him. Brown would go on to reach for Wilson’s weapon, where at this point he proceeded to shoot Brown a total of 6-7 times hitting him, with the last shot more than likely being the fatal one. brown-and-wilson

The ensuing court case would yield results much similar to the Garner case, with officer Wilson getting let off with a not guilty verdict.

With both instances, the person responsible for killing the victim were found to be not guilty. Though both were committing crimes, was this use of force necessary? Whatever the case, what happened angered many, many people causing ensuing protests. In Ferguson, Missouri, where the incident took place, there was peaceful protests right after the indictment. But these protest escalated very quickly into what would be riots, violence and looting. In New York the story was much different. Though the case with the police officer who choked out Garner got a similar indictment as Wilson, the protests which have been on going in New York City have been relatively peaceful. So we must ask ourselves- What would Martin Luther King think about these two cases?sc4630-1bwm

In MLK’s “A Letter From Birmingham Jail”, King address the “direct action” through the use of peaceful protests to change an injustice. I believe if MLK were still alive today he would look at both cases, and would totally disagree with whats going on in Ferguson. This is the exact opposite way to bring about change. They are perpetuating violence with more violence. This is probably the most ineffective way to change a problem. On the other hand though, I believe he stand behind the peaceful protests occurring in New York City. The situation which they are creating in New York through peaceful protests is indeed causing tension. The type of tension which MLK describes would bring about negotiation and change.

So do I stand behind whats going on in Ferguson and the reaction of the community? No. But on the other hand, a much more appropriate response is happening right now in New York. And through the reading “A Letter From the Birmingham County Jail” I would have to say that MLK would agree with me on this one.

Throwing Like a Girl… Pt. II

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Mo’ne Davis on the cover of Sports Illustated

One of the biggest sport stories over the summer was the emergence of a 13 year-old girl from Philadelphia, Mo’ne Davis, who not only became the first girl to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series, but absolutely dominated boys her age while on the mound. While reading up on her I couldn’t help but think of our discussion of Throwing Like a Girl? and the discrimination and lack of opportunities women face when it comes to sports and sexism.

What Mo’ne did for girls of her age, younger, and even older is a step in the right direction. A great discussion for the impact that Mo’ne had on the sports world is provided in this discussion of her story on ESPN. 

In the discussion of Throwing Like a Girl? we talked about the institutional barriers to participation which Women face. Part of this is the assumption that women are inferior, or cannot keep up with men when it comes to athletics. What Mo’ne did was to shatter this generalization by not only keeping up with the boys, but dominating them. She will be able to serve as an inspiration and an example for girls not only her age and younger, but for really all of society as a model of progress when it comes to equality.

Mo’ne may be a very modern example of a women breaking institutional barriers in the realm of sports, but there is no shortage of this in the past. One of the most famous examples of this is from a tennis match in 1973 called the “Battle of the Sexes” which pitted Billie Jean King against Bobby Riggs. In a match where King was thought to have had no chance beat Riggs just based on the mere fact that she was a woman, she came out on the winning side with a match score of 6–4, 6–3, 6–3.

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Billie Jean King

This was one of the earlier examples of women participating in men’s sports and not only keeping up to par with them, but beating them. She shocked what many considered back then a culture very much defined by the typical institutional barriers when it came to women. Not only in sports, but in society in general with the belief that they were physically and mentally weaker than men, and that trying to compete and keep up with them was just impossible.

In conclusion, these two stories of women achieving success in the sports world when facing the opposite gender, are great examples of how women can break the institutional barriers, which society places upon them when it comes to sports. These two women can serve as an example and inspiration for not only other women, but for society as a whole with it being a step in the right direction for the breaking down of these barriers.