The poor behind the rich

the NCAA’s exploitation of college athletes

Claire Lefton

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Dabo Swinney coaching during a Clemson game. Despite a multi-million dollar salary, he does not support benefits for his student athletes. Swinney’s attitude toward collegiate sports remaining “amateur” is not uncommon among coaches.

Patrons of Twitter on March 15 may have come across an odd hashtag: #soybeanwind. What does this obscure phrase mean? Well it is really an anagram for Clemson head coach, Dabo Swinney created by comedian John Oliver.

Swinney and other NCAA coaches and executives have come under heavy scrutiny in the lead up to March Madness. The controversy, as Oliver explained on “Last Week Tonight”, is the abusive behavior of the NCAA toward student athletes.

The NCAA generates billions of dollars annually through sponsorship deals and endorsements, but students, as “amateurs” are not allowed any of it while the coaches are paid millions and allowed to take advantage of these deals.

“There is nothing inherently wrong with a sporting tournament making huge amounts of money, but there is something slightly troubling about a billion dollar sports enterprise where the athletes are not paid a penny,” Oliver said on his show.

Not only are the students denied compensation for their work or profit from their endorsements. Student athletes live in hunger and debt with low grades from classes they are often not allowed to attend due to practice.

“You know, sometimes, like I said, there are hungry nights where I’m not able to eat, but I still gotta play up to my capabilities. There are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving,” former NCAA athlete Shabazz Napier said to reporters.

Coaches and executives continue to ignore and in cases deny the allegations of abuse like Swinney who despite being paid three million dollars a year does not believe his athletes deserve pay.

“As far as paying players and professionalizing college athletics, that’s where you lose me. I’ll go do something else because there’s enough entitlement in this world as it is,” Swinney told reporters.

With luck, the NCAA will reform its rules of circular logic: the NCAA will not pay the athletes because they are considered amateurs, but the athletes are considered amateurs because they are not paid.