Are College Athletes About to Get Paid?

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S1: It’s April 7th 2014 Arlington Texas a spectacular performance by the Huskies. March Madness is just about to. Napier. Is. One of the best. You’ll see a. College.

S2: The 2014 national championship game. UConn was the championship which by the way none of us expected to have. But it was a pretty big surprise that that team managed to win the national championship.

S3: ESPN Bomani Jones can still remember the Cinderella victory UConn pulled off that year.

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S4: They were as unexpected a national champion as I can think of off the top of my head.

S3: But the reason Bomani still thinks about this game it isn’t because of anything that happened on the court that night. Instead it’s because of what happened afterwards.

S5: Honestly. I want to get everybody’s attention.

S2: That’s when an announcer put a microphone in front of a player named Shabazz Napier and you could tell that Napier had something that he had planned to say and he said that we are the hungry Huskies. Ladies and gentlemen.

S6: You’re looking at the hungry.

S2: But the hunger was not simply in their desire to win a championship he meant that we are literally hungry. He talked about the nights of those guys go where they you know hungry at night and don’t have anything to eat.

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S7: Hungary had become this way. Napier talked about himself a few days earlier he’d been asked whether players should organize demand the colleges pay for their athletic work with different best to get a scholarship to universities.

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S8: It doesn’t do that doesn’t cover everything. We do have Hungary nights so we don’t have enough money to get food and sometimes needed money. Money is needed.

S9: So after Napier spoke out the CWA told athletes they’d be eligible for unlimited meals while playing college ball.

S7: But the idea that they would pay athletes that was out of the question. The thing that really stood out to me when I was watching that Shabazz Napier tape was he he doesn’t seem to be asking for a lot. No like he says you know yeah.

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S3: You know sometimes we go to bed hungry just because you know we don’t know the food dining hall is closed. And he says but you know I don’t I don’t think we should be paying people a lot of money.

S8: I don’t think you need to stretch it out to hundreds of thousand dollars for players because that’s not you know a lot of times guys are not having a sell for money.

S3: So he’s a guys could get greedy. They don’t know how to manage their money. It’s his sort of he’s saying both things at the same time it’s it’s humble.

S2: Yeah it is. I disagree with him entirely on the whole idea that you know we don’t need a lot of money in all this and this is one part of this argument that I’ve always found to be fascinating is why it is that people are concerned that the players might get too much money. Right. So you know the thing we don’t know how to manage money. It is your God given American right to blow your money any way you want to. There is nothing here that says or requires the dubious bar with your money because if it did what none of us get checks through TV licensing and tournament tickets.

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S9: The NCAA makes a billion dollars a year. They insist their players are amateurs though they say students shouldn’t be paid. But Bomani argues these athletes are at the end of a long chain of middlemen. And everyone else along the way is collecting a check. The college is making money.

S10: People having television networks that are making money on making money like I am you know like I get like I work for the company that pays for a lot of these television rights and then sells the advertising and part of those profits are paying for me. You know like we’re all in this in some form or fashion. There’s literally one group of people who they have determined can not get any money. And it’s the people that we actually are watching.

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S9: So what happens when you try to disrupt this cash flow. California is about to find out. Lawmakers there want to allow college athletes to earn money while they’re still in school. The NCAA Pele has vowed to fight them every step of the way. Some are saying this law could be a game changer. Bomani is skeptical. I’m Mary Harris. You’re listening to what next. Stick with us.

S3: I want to start off by talking about the NCAA ballet. They fought the idea of paying college athletes for years now. So I asked Bomani How should I be thinking about this organization and its position here.

S11: I want to read you a quote I want to see if I can pull this up if I can get enough enough Wi-Fi in order to make this happen. You know your password.

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S12: You know what I would like your password because I believe I’m about to blow your mind.

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S3: But Manny’s pulling up a quote from a book called unsportsmanlike conduct. It’s a history of the NCAA play written from the inside.

S11: So gentlemen a Walter Byers who was the pres who ran the NCAA ballet as it reached its heights and really helped to create the current system as it exists.

S13: And I want to make sure I get this quote exactly right about him because basically he wrote his memoir and he realized yo I have created something that is Loki kind of terrible and this is what he said in his 1995 memoir. He said it easy to blaze quote firmly committed to the neo plantation belief that the enormous proceeds from Gaines belong to the overseers the administrators and supervisors coaches the plantation workers performing in the arena may only result may receive only those benefits authorized by the overseers. That’s the man who created the whole thing.

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S3: Wow. Yeah. Yeah.

S13: That’s the man. The man who created the whole damn thing. That is what he says.

S3: This neo plantation idea. This is how a lot of people have started to look at that and CWA. It explains why California decided to roll out a bill they called the Fair Pay to play act he would allow college athletes to sign endorsements and keep control over their own name and likeness.

S4: And my problem is not a problem with the law but is the limitation of the law which is there aren’t that many people who can really make money off their likeness in court. So they take to California like a USC for example none of their players had their names on the backs of their jerseys. This is something they’ve done historically they’ve never had the names on the backs of the jerseys because you’re just playing for us. You’re just playing for us right. And it’s a kind of a charm like Notre Dame does the same thing is kind of a charm of some of these programs is bigger than you is sports team whatever it is. But there’s a handful of guys like when Reggie Bush was a USC Reggie Bush got to come out here made some money off his name and met liners in a couple of those guys. But if you’re an offensive lineman on that team the most anonymous guys on the squad you’re not really going to be able to make money off of your name. But that doesn’t mean that you haven’t done the things that earn you money. Like being a celebrity is not the reason why these guys aren’t should earn the money is because they are the engine that catalyze is this whole thing. And so I it is a positive step that California has done this but it probably applies two or three guys on a given team who’d actually be able to make like some money worth discussing. Now I saw one story that made a very simple example of how an athlete could make money off his name and likeness. So like if you’re on the water polo team now you can put on your flyers that you’re a member of the water polo team. And then when you’re trying to like sail swimming lessons to kids you can market yourself as a member of the water polo team but you were not allowed to do per CWA rules.

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S3: Maybe I just need you to lay out the absurdities of the rules. That’s that’s a crazy idea to me. Well you can’t own yourself.

S13: You can you sign your rights to yourself over to the school. That is part of the agreement to play is that you signed the right to your name and likeness over to the schools.

S2: And so I don’t know how many people have seen the movie The Mac but there is a line in the magic of laws that keep them broke. They will go with the money it is subject to go crazy.

S4: The thing is the Mac is a movie about pimps like that is a line that a pimp uses but that is fundamentally the logic that is used to not pay athletes over the years.

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S3: Players have tried to get their share of college sports profits like Northwestern football team tried to unionize. Yes that got blocked by a judge. Yes. And then we have Ed O’Bannon who is a basketball player for UCLA who sued the NCAA because he played a video game for himself. Yeah. And he was like I’m playing is me and his friend said Yeah and you’re not seeing a penny for that. Yep.

S13: And after the NCAA ballet lost this lawsuit FDA sports you know they lost this. Rather than keep this game going that they were using to make money hand over fist rather than pay to pay the players whose images and likenesses they were using. They’d shut the game down. I loved that game too. I think people really miss it.

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S3: People really miss the game and that is like now we’re not going to do it for Bomani. This is just one more example of how the NCAA really wants to keep players from making money no matter what. Even though that money it’s still making its way around.

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S4: So I heard a story once.

S12: I won’t put the names of the schools in or anything but this is when I realized the level of this game that there was a guy a player that was being recruited to go to some major state school and he wanted a new silo.

S13: Right is very rural type farm. Yeah yeah very rural type stuff.

S12: He wanted a new silo and some booster came by Yeah well what’s it gonna take to get you go school here and he’s like well I need this new silo so the booster goes up the street goes to whatever the local emporium the silo Emporium is to sell these things. And he says to the guy he says Well all right you know Mr. Johnson down the way say yeah like a Mr. Johnson needs a silo. He says what silo does he need. He says the best silo you got. And he says all right. Well Mr. Johnson we’ll have that silo and he starts walking out and the guy’s like wait a minute. Who’s going to pay for the silo. He says you’re gonna pay for the silo. He’s like what I get. You’re gonna pay for the silo. But here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re going to put an advertisement for your business in the media in the program so that all those 90000 people that come to the football game and they get a program will for free give put give you advertising in that program and then we’re going to give you an advertised meant that intermittently plays on the scoreboard during the Games.

S3: So it’s not really traceable. It’s not cash money.

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S12: Nothing. This is this magically this silo shows up. This guy gets his advertising for his business. Everybody walks away.

S3: Everybody keeps it moving in an ideal world paying athletes is a way to clean up transactions like this and the California law is a baby step forward.

S4: But to Bomani this conversation about who gets paid it’s still stuck on some really fundamental questions something that gets lost in this and this is particularly in more liberal circles in discussing this is that the opposition to paying players is still the majority view like the majority of people are on board with what the CWA does. And so the fervor in opposition is loud but it is not numerous in the way that it can often see.

S14: So I really want to talk about race because so many of the athletes are black. Yes. And I found this survey from a couple of years back and ask people how they felt about paying college athletes. And there is this massive racial divide. Fifty two percent of black respondents are strongly or somewhat in favor of playing of paying college athletes. Yes. And among whites 43 percent of people oppose it. Yes. I mean what do you make of that.

S11: It’s funny that as this has come up I’ve been reading Martin Luther King’s book Where Do We Go From Here Chaos and community. And I highlighted some things while I was writing because they really tapped in to some of the things that we’re talking about here. So one thing one thing that is always interesting I think we talked earlier about the idea that people don’t mind these guys getting something but there’s always the idea of a cap like he was about his neighbors saying we need to have like not we don’t need a lot of money we’ll be OK with just a little money and I’m trying to find this passage that King had in the book that really struck me. You know what. While I was thinking about this and it was about the idea of enough and of course he was speaking in a much broader context when talking about people where these attitudes about whether or not there was enough but what he says here he says these are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races loosing easy language about equality resonance solutions and about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear before the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough each step forward accents an ever present tendency to backlash. So like when you think about the context and the tenor of rate of discussions of race in the United States they really tend to mirror and go right along with what the discussion is that we are having here with paying college athletes. I can’t think of any group of white people that has ever been told now y’all got enough right. Like they now know that the whole point of this is actually the idea that you are able to get as much as you can. I suppose we kind of you know the quasi beauty of America the idea that you can go get all you can’t get enough isn’t like a principle of capitalism.

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S4: It’s not. It is fundamentally oppositional to the idea of capitalism is the idea that all you want to do is get enough effect they’ll make the argument for you that capitalism only works if people are not satisfied with the notion of enough and they can get other things in this book. RAZ I was going through and I was just like oh my goodness I like the parallels between what he was talking about then and what we have now are so striking and so a lot of the resentment I think that you hear about the idea of paying athletes sounds a lot like a certain former resentment that you hear about things like welfare and the like which is why are they getting that if I didn’t like what people hit me with a lot in their responses. Well I’ve got this stack of student loans right. Those guys don’t have student loans and never mind these guys. A lot of these guys wouldn’t have student loans anyway because they wouldn’t have gone to college of war for playing ball right. So like they did they they they weren’t begging for the right to do this. They were begging for the right to go to class necessarily but it very often comes back into a context of they get X Y and Z. Why don’t I get X Y and Z which is again a huge part of the rhetoric that has surrounded a lot of issues of politics with the notion and the idea the welfare state it’s about who’s getting who’s getting this money and who do we think deserves to get this money. And the idea is that these guys for whatever reason do not deserve it.

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S14: Tim Tebow spoke out. Yes. Over the last week he was so impassioned I was struck by him.

S15: You know I feel like I have a little credibility and knowledge about this you when I was at the when I was at the University of Florida I think my jersey was one of the top selling jerseys around the world.

S14: He was sort of making this argument that paying athletes is part of a selfish culture.

S15: Yes OK it’s not about us it’s not about we it’s just about me and yes I know we live in a selfish culture where it’s all about us for just adding and piling on to that where it changes what’s special about college football can we turn into the NFL or who has the most money. That’s where you go.

S13: That’s why Twitter was not kind to this. No no.

S4: I laughed like I was one of the unkind people to a degree and he he believes and I can understand how he does to be fair and he believes in the the mythos that surrounds college athletics. But part of why I can understand why he does is he. His last year in college was 10 years ago. He has been earning money off of his collegiate success ever since then. All right. He was not a good NFL player. He’s playing minor league baseball right now. But all of that’s on the basis of the fame that he got while he was the quarterback at the University of Florida. So like I could imagine that he is a person that’s like Hey you don’t need to make that money then you can make the money later. Just like I did but nobody else is really getting to make that money after the fact devils because a lot of players don’t make it to the Pro. No they don’t. They don’t make it frozen like Tebow honestly would’ve been a guy who didn’t make it to the pros because he’ll make that money off a b and Tim Tebow because he meant so much to them while he was at that school. But there are all kinds of other guys who achieve similar fame and they’re not going to be they’re not going to be avenues for them to get paid after the fact in the ways that there have been for Tim Tebow. Like if he could. I wonder if he could step outside himself just a little bit to see what the experience is with some of these other people.

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S14: You guys are anomalies and you need to appreciate the fact that you’re anomalies so the NCAA play they’re lobbying the governor trying to get this law blocked.

S3: What are they hoping is going to happen instead in October I heard that they’re coming out with their own plan.

S12: We’ll see. We’ll see.

S13: I think that they are simply just trying to buy time like I think I don’t I think that the California law is just going to be a blip for them unless the schools go along with it. The key to remember here is these schools they don’t want these guys getting paid either. It’s not like the individual school. There’s been no individual school that’s come out and say we wish we could pay these players. So the schools all say they don’t want to pay them. So the law will say OK these guys can do this and legally they’re going to do this. But the players are going to get any assistance from the institutions and going out and getting this money if for no other reason they’re going to getting that money is going to take time away from them doing the things that the school wants them to do in the first place. So I think that this is an interesting start and we’ll see more things come up in more states. But it does more to generate discussion and discussion I think is important.

S12: But it does more to generate discussion than I think is truly going to prove to be a seismic shift in the paradigm of how we do this.

S14: It sounds like you think this law in some ways isn’t going to change very much at all. No.

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S4: I have always believed that it is going to require a judicial challenge in order to make this happen because once is a judicial challenge. We’re not at the whims of the politicians anymore who can be swayed by whatever their personal interest happened to be at the time. If it’s something codified into law that requires a certain behavior then I think people are then going to have to adhere to it. But I don’t think we have achieved a victory in this other than showing that reasonable people have looked at the current system and find it to be insane. And I think it’s important for more reasonable people to come out and say that they find the court system to be in say.

S16: The money. Thank you so much for joining me now. Thank you. I appreciate it. But money Jones is a co-host of ESPN as high noon.

S17: All right. That’s the show today and every day I am super grateful for Mary Wilson Jason De Leon Morris Silvers and Daniela Hewitt. Finally Bomani Jones super grateful for that guy too. In case you had any doubt this guy hosts a lot of podcasts. Way more podcasts than me.

S18: I am the co-host of high noon of 4:00 o’clock Eastern on ESPN. Is always a podcast called the right time for these twice weekly on ESPN. You can check out my own podcast the evening Jones at ina Jones dot com.

S17: Go check them out. I’m Mary Harris. I will talk to you tomorrow.