Black Labor, White Profits, and How the NCAA Weaponized the Thirteenth Amendment


The 140,000 sq. ft. NCAA Headquarters in Indianapolis

From Sport in American History by Kevin Gannon:

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has been in the news a lot lately, and not for the reasons they’d wish. An FBI investigation into illegal payments to recruits and other sordid transgressions has roiled NCAA men’s basketball, and already brought down one of that sport’s all-time winningest coaches, the University of Louisville’s Rick Pitino. Now new revelations from Yahoo Sports implicate the most prominent programs (such as Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Kansas) in the same sort of transgressions for which Pitino lost his job. The shocking negligence of Michigan State University in the matter of Dr. Larry Nasser’s serial sexual abuse has awakened the echoes of the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State–particularly in the increasingly vocal criticisms of the NCAA and its member institutions’ apparent inability to ensure the safety of their athletes.

Hovering above all of this, as it has for years, is the persistent debate over the definition of “amateurism” and the growing consensus that the NCAA is egregiously exploiting its unpaid student athletes, particularly in the big-money sports of football and basketball (these sports’ top programs generate over 9 billion dollars in revenue annually). Every time a rules violation involving cash or other goods being funneled to an athlete crops up, so does the question of paying athletes. The defenders of the “amateur” ideal, most prominently the NCAA itself, argue that these athletes receive a college education either free or at a significant discount, and that is more than sufficient compensation. Paying athletes, they argue, would lead to an “arms race” between high-powered collegiate athletic programs, and corrupt the integrity that lies at the heart of amateur athletics.

Read the rest of the article Sport in American History

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