“The subject matter is over their head but…Under their nose.”- David Styles
Indentured servitude was a form of debt bondage, established in the early years of the American colonies and elsewhere. It was most used as a way for poor teenagers in Britain and the German states to get free passage to the American colonies. They would work for a fixed number of years, then be free to work on their own. Sound familiar? This definition of indentured servitude sounds eerily similar to how we would describe our modern day student athletes. The only difference is the glory and star worship they receive on campus and nationally, but the only compensation is room and board. NCAA football and College basketball traffic in the inner city, dangling the carrot of the NBA and NFL in front of a majority of kids who see becoming a professional athlete as their only way of becoming successful, with their million dollar a year coaches acting as de-facto overseers. It’s high comedy that the coach of the Kentucky Wildcats is vilified in the media and seen as the boggy man by other college basketball coaches, because he has found a happy medium in getting his prospects to the NBA as fast as possible, while maintaining an elite program. And when a player like Johnny Manziel challenges the construct of the stereotype of an athlete who is looking to cash out, it brings the entire process of amateur athletics into the forefront.
Something’s feel so simple, yet have no easy answer. It’s not because there isn’t a viable solution, it’s because every individual has a different opinion on how to deal with the same subject, and it’s supremely difficult to get a snowball to reverse its motion once it begins to cascade down the hill. The business at hand, and I do emphasize the word business, is the NBA’s “One and Done” rule, and the industry as a whole that does not pay its labor force. We live in a space where in our pro sports everything is “collectively bargained”, meaning that the players and owners get together to set the financial parameters in which their league or association will adhere to over a finite amount of time.
There are 3 primary reasons for the NBA’s “One and Done” rule, no it’s not money, money and money, but the current NBA players want to keep high school kids out an extra year because that’s an extra year on the back end of a veteran’s career. Secondly, the NBA enjoys their “free” minor league, even though they have the NBDL, nobody watches it, and therefore college basketball acts as a marketing tool to help bring millions of eyes to the new crop of young basketball players that will be coming into the NBA. Lastly, the NBA’s GM’s and coaches feel like they can get a better feel for the players that will be in the draft if they get a chance to watch them in college for a year and talk to the college coaches who they trust to get honest insight about a particular player. Lots of unspoken agreements are intertwined between the NCAA and the pro leagues in order to put both parties in mutually beneficial situations in regards to maximizing their profits, and they will go to great lengths in order to make sure gravy train keeps undulating.
The “One and Done” rule evokes a great deal of emotion, simply because most if not all of the prospects that it effects are black youths. Nobody cares if baseball, hockey, tennis or golf players skip college or in some cases parts of their high school careers in order to become professionals, where most of the athletes are comprised of mostly white people. Make no mistake, there is jealousy, resentment, anger, biased and bigotry when it comes to the discussion of the NBA’s one and done rule. Are some people bitter that there were unproven 18 year old black kids coming straight out of high school and getting guaranteed contracts for millions of dollars, while they’re struggling to make ends meet? Of course. One thing I think David Stern never gets credit for is selling a black league to a majority white consumer base, which no one wants to acknowledge because race is such a difficult subject to broach.
Race has a great deal to do with the feelings and sentiment around the NBA’s “One and Done” rule and the NFL keeping prospects out of the league until they have spent three years on a college campus. But, in reality the only color that really matters is green, money, the religion that we all worship in this great nation, is why the gate keepers of these two great sports have decided to place restrictions on when players can enter the professional ranks. The NCAA signed a 14 year, $10.8 billion dollar deal in 2010 to televise the Men’s Basketball tournament on CBS and Turner Networks, as well as 14 year, $500 million dollar deal to televise the “smaller sports” championship games with ESPN. This doesn’t take into account the dollar amount that the individual NCAA conferences have signed to show basketball games on ESPN, FOX Sports, CBS, Raycom, NBC Sports, Big Ten Network, Longhorn Network, and the Pac 12 Network. All of these deals factor into Billions of dollars over the next few years, but the basketball money barely begins to scratch the surface of the money troth that is major NCAA sports. College Football is the number two sport in terms of television ratings, and the amount of money that TV networks will pay in order to broadcast these games being played by kids age 17-22 are staggering. ESPN and Fox will pay the Big 12 conference $ 2.6 Billion Dollars until the year 2024, while also shelling out $3 Billion Dollars to the Pac 12 conference through 2023. The SEC, the number one football conference in America will receive $3.075 Billion Dollars through 2023 from CBS and ESPN, while the Big Ten will receive $1 Billion Dollars from ESPN through 2017 and another $2.8 Billion Dollars from their own “Big Ten Network” through 2031. The ACC is bringing up the rear with $ 3.6 Billion Dollars from ESPN through the year 2026. Those numbers are staggering considering the labor force of these “corporations” aren’t being properly compensated, unless you consider a college scholarship fair compensation? I wanted to share these numbers because it’s important to see the revenue that is being generated by big time college sports, do with these dollar amounts what you will.