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The exploitation of college athletes

Armstrong Williams | 4/17/2014, 2:32 p.m.

Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided to let college football players at Northwestern University unionize. Usually I am not in favor of unions, but clearly something must be done to change the way college athletes get compensated for their services.

Today, thousands of college athletes throughout the country are exploited by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and colleges and universities. Despite bringing in millions of dollars for their school and the NCAA, college athletes receive almost nothing in return.

Sure, some college athletes get scholarships, but the ones who do don’t even receive enough compensation to cover the cost of attending school. Some of the college athletes we are talking about here can’t even afford to buy their own jerseys. They walk around campus in sweatpants and flip-flops and eat noodle soap for dinner because they can’t afford anything better. If you are one of the talented athletes who do receive a full scholarship, you only receive three meals a day in the cafeteria. As a hard-working athlete, three meals a day in the cafeteria is not enough food, and anything outside of the cafeteria must be purchased out of pocket.

Many of these college athletes are African-American and come from poverty-stricken communities. Last year, the National College Players Association released a report called “The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sports.” Their report concluded that 86 percent of college athletes live below the poverty line.

The fact that Texas football players are valued at $513,922 or that Duke basketball players are worth $1,025,656 and they may be living below the poverty line is downright outrageous. The situation many of these players fine themselves in is worse than endangered servitude! They are owned by the NCAA and the universities they attend.

Executives at the NCAA make about $1 million per year off college sports, despite the NCAA’s status as a “nonprofit.” In 2010, the NCAA agreed to a 14-year, $10.8 billion contract with CBS. Guess how much money the players who draw the large viewership and high ratings for CBS make off this deal? That’s right, a whopping zero dollars.

If this wasn’t bad enough, head college basketball coaches earn anywhere from $100,000 to over $8 million per year off the success of their athletes. However, if a player holds an autograph-signing event drawing in thousands of dollars, he cannot take a single dime of the profits. The NCAA prohibits this kind of activity because college athletes don’t possess ownership over their own name—the NCAA does.

The real reason the NCAA wants to keep college athletes on amateur status is for their own self-interest. Preventing collegiate athletes from earning a professional status means more money for the players and less money for them.

And what about all the injuries college athletes experience? Sure, they get medical coverage if they make the team, but many of these athletes experience season-ending injuries or suffer concussions that have long-term consequences after they graduate college. College athletes must be provided with medical care whether they make the team or not. Injuries sustained during the season must be taken care for as long as they remain an issue. Refusing to take care of the basic medical needs of college players should not be tolerated.