OK. The hypocrisy must stop.
The NCAA and the NBA are in violation. The University of Southern California’s head basketball coach Tim Floyd recently resigned amid allegations that he gave $1,000 to basketball player O.J. Mayo’s handler, Rodney Guillory. When I heard the news, I thought to myself, “Just one grand?” If it is true, Mayo settled for much less than he’s worth to go to Trojan territory.
The NCAA must cease with these archaic rules and stop pretending that they are not in on the dirty little secret that is high stakes recruiting in college basketball. This is a practice that has gone on for many years; the NCAA knows it and turns a blind eye, unless someone has the misfortune of pissing someone off.
Out of all of the teams that recruited players last year, why are they targeting Tim Floyd? Maybe it is because they have been after USC’s football and basketball programs for years? Maybe it is because each year they must have a sacrificial lamb to give validity to the outdated rules and practices of the NCAA and to remind people that they operate with a moral compass? Yeah right.
So what if Floyd gave O.J. Mayo $1,000 to “sign” with USC? The millions that the NCAA and USC made off of him more than make up for it. Mayo was only on the squad for one year. Why? Because of another ridiculous rule: NBA-caliber high school players have to play college ball for one year before heading to the NBA. Why? So, the players can get the college experience, mature a bit and be protected in case of injury. If you threw up in your mouth a little bit when you read that last sentence, then you know the real deal.
Neither the NCAA nor the NBA give a hoot about these kids. You see how they so readily dismiss them if they get injured or make “youthful” mistakes during their time on the team. A guaranteed NBA contract and financial management course is what one needs to be “protected” in case of an injury, especially coming out of high school, particularly if he has lived in poverty his entire life.
The NBA and the NCAA are in bed together. While the NBA wants to control long-term labor costs, the NCAA wants to avoid billions in local and federal taxes, along with having marquee players to keep fans engaged and busy purchasing memorabilia. Oh, but the players can’t get paid while they’re driving billions of dollars to the NCAA and the Division I schools, respectively.
The NCAA gets to use the likeness of the players on video games and all sorts of advertising and collateral, but the players cannot get paid to “sign” with a specific team, hold a job while on the team (most can’t because of crazy practice and travel schedules), or be paid while their “work” is making money for major businesses through advertising and promotions. Slavery 2.0?
When that doesn’t work, they cast aspersions on whichever player or coach they need to hold up as a sacrificial lamb. Derrick Rose, anyone? Although he could have gone pro, he had to play one freakin’ year at Memphis. He won two high school state titles, went to the NCAA finals with the 2008 Memphis team and was named rookie of the year in the NBA. The NCAA had the bad manners to release his SAT scores while investigating a claim that someone else took the SAT for him. This allegation was met with great fanfare in the media, although Rose behaved much more maturely than the NCAA by not responding to the allegations — which were later dropped because of lack of evidence.
Sports writer Dan Wetzel said it best: “… young players have to play pretend before they can play ball. They have to pretend that amateurism rules can stop the wheels of capitalism. They have to pretend that an arbitrary thing like a minimum SAT score — which is never how the test was designed to be used — is a fair hurdle they need to clear to pursue their professional aspirations.”
These young basketball players, many of whom come from impoverished backgrounds, are used up until they can get to the NBA, if they’re lucky. Less than 3 percent of Division I college players will ever make it to the pros. If they aren’t going to allow high school players of Kobe Bryant’s, Dwight Howard’s, Kevin Garnett’s and O.J. Mayo’s caliber to go pro, then they should pay them something.
Perhaps if the NCAA was not so greedy, they could use payment as an incentive to stay in school for more than a year — then maybe the players would not be so pressed for money. I’m not saying that the players should make NBA money, but they should get a stipend or something, especially when the coaches and others are making millions of dollars. Is it really fair to be a part of a billion-dollar industry and to be paid nothing for it? Again, Slavery 2.0?
It is so interesting that the one-year rule that the NBA implemented does not apply to European players, just players from the United States. Racism 2.0? But that’s another column.
A little education never hurt anybody — I get that. And I would respect it if the NCAA truly thought highly of academics. They don’t, as evidenced by the grueling practices, schedules and travel that players must endure. Time in the classroom is secondary to athletic performance at Division I schools. Working “around” the system has always been a part of athletics, whether it be matters of eligibility; the exchange of money or services; or actual time spent in the classroom.
This post originally appeared on Creative Loafing, where Nsenga serves as cultural critic.