Thursday, October 11, 2018
My dad had four sons. I have four daughters. The one athlete amongst them used to ask me all the time, when she was 9 or 10 years old, if she could tag along with me whilst me and some buddies tried to shoot in the 90's on some expensive Orlando golf course. "No, baby girl," I'd say, "Daddy is playing with a buncha old men and, well, you just wouldn't have any fun." Times have certainly changed. When she's home from college, where she's golfing everyday with her D-I teammates, watching the golf channel, partying, watching more golf channel, and . . . oh yeah, going to class and the "study hall" that is mandatory for all "student-athletes," the last thing she wants to do is wait around watching me shoot a triple bogey while she is on the green in regulation. I shoulda had her out on the course at 3 or 4 years old. I chuckled about that as I watched HBO's new documentary last night entitled, "Student-Athlete." Life could be worse, I suppose. My third daughter has a real competitive streak and as a "he" my "son" might have spent untold hours in the gym, on the court, or on the football field, all places much more dangerous than the golf course. Instead of in class. Or maybe in class but the coach probably would not have approved of "too" much time away from practice. HBO likely overstates the case (but not by much) when it claims that athletes get nothing out of the deal. Sure, a lot of former student athletes hardly earn more than if they had skipped college altogether. The documentary does a good job of portraying the stereotypically exploited student athlete, who now finds himself out of eligibility and sleeping in his car. But, then, a lot of "student-athletes" would never ever have stepped on a college campus if it were not for the NCAA. All that is so much besides the real point, though.
There are a few more provocative soundbites from the documentary (more precisely linked below) that I wish were included in the actual episode. On the recent academic front, Schmalbeck and Zelenack, two familiar experts, have a good paper coming out soon (if its not already out) proving at least four ways the NCAA is more business than charity. But alas, the paper only nibbles around the edges of the real problem. You can read the abstract over on Taxprof. The paper only suggests what is obvious. The NCAA is BIG business and ought to be taxed as such, just like professional sports teams. Its no longer just a story about taxing the NCAA around the edges of its "unrelated business;" the whole thing is unrelated. And, it's racial injustice, it's CEO coaches earning millions and who damn well better make sure his or her "employees" know the play-book never mind the textbook, its worthless degrees, and its billions of dollars for everybody except the "student-athlete." Professor Anne Marie Lafaso's recent article Groomed for Exploitation! "matriculates" the ball further down the field, if we are being honest about it. And we are aren't we? Honest, I mean. Anyway, here is her abstract:
In this article, I examine the connection between the exploitation of college football players and the persistence of the student-athlete myth. The argument that exploitation is enabled by this myth is presented in five parts. First, I briefly define the concept of exploitation, distinguish between two types of exploitation (transactional and structural), and posit that, while there may be some transactional exploitation in dealings between college football players and their schools, this situation poses the problems associated with structural exploitation.
Second, I describe an important part of the sociological context in which this story is unfolding; that these young athletes are groomed for exploitation as high school students and then further exploited as college athletes. To that end, I briefly review six aspects of that exploitation: (1) the sport is brutal; (2) there is a low financial payoff for a sport so high in health and safety risks; (3) college football has been commercialized for some time with Power Five universities and the NCAA having much at stake; [emphasis added] (4) the student-athlete ideal is a myth perpetuated by those who have a financial stake; [emphasis added] (5) Power Five universities hold monopsony power; and (6) lawmakers have been unwilling to recognize this vulnerability, thereby exacerbating the exploitation.
Third, I position this discussion in the context of two recent news stories: the case of the Frostburg State football player who died in practice because of a concussion that his coach allegedly ignored; and the Northwestern case, in which the football players attempted to form a union. By placing this controversy within the context of two specific cases, one which represents the brutality of the sport and the other which represents players’ unsuccessful attempt at self-help, the reader should gain insights into the horrific exploitation of our young people all in the name of commercialization.
Fourth, I argue that the National Labor Relations Board should have found that the Northwestern football players were employees for purposes of collective bargaining and mutual aid or protection. Finally, I explain that cognitive dissidence results from the fact that college student athletes often meet the statutory definition of employee and our intuition that college athletes should not be employees of the very university that allegedly has an interest in educating that young person.
"Monopsony power!" And completely untaxed. Anyway, Go Gators!