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The University of Miami may see its storied football program go up in smoke (for at least a while) after it was determined that a booster gave money, gifts and other sorts of lavish items to players in order to entice them to join the football program. So, it appears that the University of Miami is guilty of the same sins as so many other programs who have also decided to compensate players for their labor.

The “crimes” at Miami are just as egregious as the ones that led to the dismissal of Ohio State University football coach, Jim Tressel. In Tressel’s case, players were trading their own autographs for free tattoos. I hope you can hold back your anguish as I describe the blatant ferocity of these horrific crimes.

The NCAA says that a long list of Miami players, who generated millions for NCAA administrators, coaches and sports commentators “broke the rules” by getting paid from their labor like everyone else. But you have to laugh at the sheer irony that those who make the rules are the first ones in line to earn a profit from those very same regulations. Were it not for the labor being generated by these athletes, the administrators scrutinizing their behavior wouldn’t be able to pick up their own paychecks.

The NCAA’s appalled reaction to players getting paid is no different from the father who considers it to be scandalous that his 21-year old daughter is having sex with her boyfriend. Rather than seeing things as they really are (that his daughter has a right to freedom of choice), he would rather hold onto a delusion of innocence and purity built and maintained at his daughter’s expense.  Therefore, with each passing day, there is yet another “scandal” just waiting to be uncovered because the father refuses to come to reality.

NCAA athletes are not “daddy’s little girls,” possessing the innocence that NCAA administrators seek to maintain. It is a sports entertainment behemoth, earning more money during March Madness than the NFL, NBA and Major League baseball earn during their post seasons. Billions of dollars are being passed across the table in exchange for athletic performance, with athletes themselves being traded like commodities and paraded like farm animals, all for the nation’s enjoyment.  This loss of innocence was driven by greedy NCAA regulators, who’ve signed the multi-billion dollar TV rights deals, creating ungodly amounts of pressure for student athletes to perform on the court or the field in front of a national audience.  There’s no such thing as a normal college experience when you are under the pressure of big time college athletics.

In addition to turning this professional sports league (yes, I said professional) into an economic beast that puts money ahead of all else, NCAA administrators are also the ones who choose to take athletes out of class so they can play on ESPN games across the country. They are the ones who allow for lopsided multi-million dollar compensation deals for coaches who have more incentive to win games than to educate.  So, the NCAA is like the father who expects his daughter to live an innocent life, when he himself was the one who stole her innocence in the first place.  NCAA regulators can’t argue that street agents, boosters and others are exploiting college athletes by paying them, when they are merely producing a more ethical form of exploitation than the NCAA itself.

To kill the University of Miami football program because some of its players were given money to feed their families is like jailing someone during slavery for teaching a slave how to read. Over 150 years ago, it was “against the rules” for slaves to learn how to read or for Americans to harbor fugitive slaves who’d run away from their masters.  But the truth is that few Americans took the time to determine if the rules were ethical, humane, honest or fair. The idea that some are allowed to get wealthy from the labor of NCAA athletes, while their mothers are not allowed to profit from their children’s God given abilities is an insult to the intelligence of the American people and a fundamentally racist, hypocritical and borderline disgusting concept.

The University of Miami did nothing wrong. College athletes should have labor rights just like the rest of us. There is nothing scandalous about an American worker being compensated for his labor.   Let’s please get back to reality.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.


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