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Student-athletes may also receive special treatment when it comes to academic issues, for example priority scheduling, tutoring assistance, and excused absences. Sport enthusiasts favoring the idea of paying student-athletes hold a whole different perspective, however.
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They argue that student-athletes should be paid, in light of the huge revenues they have generated for the colleges and universities. They also believe that paying student-athletes would alleviate problems related to illegal payments and point shaving. Paying student-athletes would provide athletes an incentive to stay in school and complete their degree programs, instead of leaving early for the professional leagues. I have a very personal perspective of the issue.
My dad went on to graduate from the U of C, served as a Navy officer in World War II like most of his classmates, and culminated a successful career as vice president of real estate and construction for Sears Roebuck with construction of the Sears Tower. My father knew that, like so many others generations of scholarship athletes, without the boost from competing on the gridiron, none of that would have been possible.
Just like back in the s when my father played football, intercollegiate sports today provide golden opportunities to tens of thousands of student-athletes every year. To be sure, he played before sellout crowds of up to 50, fans in legendary Stagg Field better known as the birthplace of the first sustained nuclear chain reaction , but there were no lucrative network and cable TV contracts and revenues from sports apparel and merchandise were a mere fraction of what they are today.
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Colleges and universities back then had their priorities straight in the balancing of academics versus athletics. Student-athletes took their scholarship opportunities seriously and very few set their sights on careers in professional football or basketball.
College was viewed as a golden opportunity for a good education and a quality foundation for a successful career, not a way station to professional sports. By contrast, college football today is a huge business that generates billions in revenue annually the net revenue from basketball is even more dramatic due to minimal expenses and smaller rosters. Universities rake in multiple millions from TV revenues, merchandise sales, and bowl game cash. Is Longhorn football really five times more important than academics?
Do the math… I guess so, in their minds.
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With all that money in the system, some argue strenuously that student-athletes should get a piece of the pie much bigger than a full-ride scholarship. Just imagine a Teamsters Local 99 of Ohio State football players taking a strike vote right before the traditional rivalry game against the Michigan Wolverines. Not a pretty picture, particularly for ABC. The simple fact is that money corrupts… and huge money corrupts absolutely witness the disgraceful scandals in the beleaguered Ohio State and Miami football programs.
But, there may be room for compromise. Perhaps those athletic scholarships could be expanded to include living costs and a modest stipend. This would be a significant challenge for many large Division I programs, but the challenges certainly should be manageable. To be sure, there is no way to turn back the clock, or un-ring the revenue bell in college athletics, but the current sullied culture of collegiate sports seriously depreciates the value of a good education and in the process makes some wonder whether University of Chicago President Hutchins may have been right after all.
About Authors Events Contact Submissions. So what happened in the decades that followed? The movement of athletes who spoke publicly about social reform in the s — with Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar being among the most prominent — appeared to, collectively, fade to black. For the better part of the next three decades, athletes — perhaps fearing the loss of jobs and endorsements in the era before huge multimillion-dollar guaranteed contracts — were often mere observers when it came to social protest.
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Recently, athletes have demonstrated a willingness to re-enter the field. That resonated loudly in when LeBron James tweeted a photo of the entire Miami Heat team donning hoodies and standing with their heads bowed in a tribute to Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida teenager who was shot to death after being profiled by a neighborhood crime-watch volunteer.
The recent actions pale compared with Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, Muhammad Ali challenging the Vietnam War and Curt Flood taking his fight for free agency to the Supreme Court.
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It helps that, today, athletes are financially comfortable to take a stand. Money equals freedom.
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When even second-tier NBA players are signing multiyear contracts for tens of millions of dollars, the players are in a better position to express their opinions without jeopardizing their livelihoods. There are still risks, of course.
While NBA salaries are guaranteed, players can lose endorsement income. That might have an impact on a player making close to the league minimum. To them, risking a few million while taking a stand might not have a tremendous impact. Both were immediately kicked out of the Olympic Village and faced years of financial struggles. The ex-wife of Carlos committed suicide in , which took the Olympian down the path of depression.
But, for me, there are no regrets. I came into an academic environment that involved more than getting an education. In the days after Carlos and Smith were banned from the Olympic Village, three more Americans made a statement. Each wore black berets similar to those worn by members of the Black Panther Party when they approached the medal stand.
Boxer George Foreman took a different approach, celebrating his gold medal by walking around the ring holding two American flags. Despite being harshly criticized at the time by many black Olympians, Foreman holds firms to his belief that athletes and activism are a bad mix. While noted sports activists like Ali, Russell, Brown and Abdul-Jabbar were vocal in the s, some say their activity might have been strategic. Abdul-Jabbar went on to become one of the best players in NBA history, but was never able to parlay his success into a coaching or front office position.
Chicago Bulls shooting guard Craig Hodges showed up at the White House wearing a dashiki after his team won the title, and handed President George Bush a letter requesting that more be done for black communities in America.