Reporting Mo Ivory
I am sick to my stomach.
Not because the City of Atlanta was on fire.
Not because hundreds of thousands of people flooded downtown Atlanta.
Not because I couldn’t get backstage to see top artists such as Ludacris, Macklemore, MUSE and Sting during their free concerts at Centennial Olympic Park.
No, I’m sick to my stomach because there were so many Final Four-related financial transactions going on these past few days – from ticket sales, to the Bracket Town Fan Fest at the Georgia World Congress Center to the merchandising on every street corner in downtown Atlanta – and the players won’t see a penny of it!
All of that Syracuse, Michigan and Wichita State paraphernalia everyone was wearing – not to mention the inescapable “Win with Ware” Louisville T-shirts – I can’t help but ask: When will the players get a cut of the millions if not billions of dollars being generated by their talent?
My Dad and I discussed this in detail as we rode MARTA to the Georgia Dome, and people on the train joined in the conversation with comments like: “The players are being raped!” “They already get scholarships!” Then there was the astounding: “Why should the players get a cut? They should be glad just to get a chance to go to college.”
Why shouldn’t Kevin Ware get a cut of the profits generated from the T-shirts bearing his name and sold in the thousands this past weekend while he sat in a wheelchair recovering?
Oh yeah, Kevin should just be glad he still gets to go to class at Louisville.
And I know, I know – it’s against NCAA rules to pay players money for their talent.
BUT, perfectly fine to pay coaches that make it to Final Four salaries in the multi-million dollar range and equal bonuses to match.
Oh by the way, television broadcast revenues of college sports have soared to nearly $2 billion a year. College sport merchandise licensing revenue — from T-shirts, hats, shoes and video games was reported to have garnered $4.6 billion in 2012.
And how much of that do the actual college players get again? ZERO!
There may be, however, some relief in sight.
Currently, there is a class action lawsuit that can change the structure of scholarships and payments to college student athletes. The lawsuit was initiated by former NBA players Ed O’Bannon, Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson. It alleges the NCAA violates US Antitrust laws. And essentially that means by not paying the student athletes the NCAA creates a monopoly or participates in anti-competitive behavior.
The lawsuit seeks payments to student athletes based on revenues from live and taped TV broadcasts of college football and basketball games. It also seeks a share of profits from merchandise licensing fees on clothing, video games and anything else that uses or markets the player’s likeness.
This past February a federal judge in California allowed the lawsuit to go forward, over NCAA objections. The trial is scheduled for July 2014.
What will happen in the meantime? I have a proposal and I am going to send it to the NCAA.
It all has to do with family. Many college players want to win a college championship and get drafted to the NBA so they can help their families, and change the economic future for their parents and siblings.
I am proposing that every time a college or university recruits and offers a student an athletic scholarship they should also offer the siblings of that athlete a scholarship as well. Any scholarship. Even a grant that equates to the price of full tuition, room, board and books would suffice. That way, they are educating a family and taking a financial burden off the parents or the guardians in exchange for the millions they will make off that one student athlete.
Sunday, I went to Lenox Mall and I asked a few Louisville fans about my idea. They loved it. They said at least this idea could work at the top schools where the money is so plentiful. They remarked that many times, a top athlete, especially African-American ones, will go to college but his siblings will stay on the streets, get in trouble and end up in jail because they don’t have the same access to opportunity that their highly-recruited sibling does. That should not be.
So, in the day where a coach who screams at, hits and berates his players with homophobic slurs at his players – but still gets a $100,000 bonus on top of his $600,000+ salary upon his firing – it is time to demand more from the colleges and universities for the very players that make it possible for a coach to make that kind of money.
- Mo Ivory, CBS Local