Is NCAA football a new form of modern day slavery? They travel far and wide to find the biggest, strongest and athletically sound young men to risk their lives on the battlefield. Battlefield? Well although there might not be weapons of mass destruction, swords or cannons the football field is where many young men go to war. Where they fight for their right to an education, to make a way for their families in need and to prove that they are better than the one that came before them. Ever been to a high school game where the players know college scouts are in the stands? They pour over these players’ stats and physical make up looking for the best of the best. After all, they will be investing in these young players and expect a substantial return. They are property of the university and they lose a year of eligibility if they choose to leave. With athletes at max having a 5-year shelf life you tell me…would you walk away?
What strikes me as even more profound is how one conference in particular seemingly preys on this type of young African-American young male who 60 years ago could not even step a foot on their football field, let alone their campus(2). I sat the other day and watched the Lee Daniels film, “The Butler” and found myself thinking about how they spat in the faces of the same type of young men they now ride the backs of to bring in the victory. The NCAA is the new millennial slave ship. Its vessels are filled with the strongest and biggest athletes that the country can provide; the same formula for slave owners 200 plus years ago when they sacrificed the lives of the innocent by enslaving millions of Africans. These slaves could only be in the homes of their masters to serve. Now, these modern day slaves known as football players are making millions of dollars for schools that pay them with a promise of an education and a degree that most will never earn.
You now see players such as Arian Foster of the Houston Texans stepping up and being a voice for these many players. Although they are known by millions they still struggle to pay rent and eat. Worrying about food and shelter should be at the bottom of the list for star athletes that are bringing in millions of dollars to these major universities in revenue. For those that were fathers too soon, they are now put in a position to neglect their financial responsibilities as fathers because they cannot hold jobs and are playing for the future of their families.
Many of these players find homes at universities such as FSU where they may win; but they see less than a 45 percent graduation rate for African American football players(1). If you have a career ending injury, consider yourself set up to be just another statistic. The one resource that slave owners knew provided freedom was knowledge and education. By providing no educational resources, they kept their slaves in a constant position of inferiority. This is now true with their being such a low standard set by the NCAA for GPA requirements and graduation rates. Keep them uninformed…keep pulling the wool over their eyes
But how do we as college football fans contribute to this? For many fans the choice between a student-athlete staying back to study for an exam or miss a title game is easy…the team comes first. The pressure we place on these young athletes to be a success on and off the field is greater than the weight of the world, and yet no one wants to take the blame. Why is the NCAA able to continue to profit off the athletic ability of college players; but not allow for them to profit themselves?
If college players are considered amateurs and are unable to profit, then why is the NCAA not set up as a non-profit organization? Why does the government have it out for career focused for-profit educational systems but not state ran universities who profit from athletics? Why do the same rules not apply and how has the NCAA been able to find loopholes to keep things in the same stagnant position? As consumers we all have a simple response to this problem…pay the players? But with this would come new challenges that would not support a healthy player environment.
So where do we go from here? Watching college athletics and cheering on your alma mater or hometown team is part of the culture of many American homes. We gather together on Saturdays with our local watch groups and support our team wearing the colors with pride. We stand up for hours in the stands rooting them to victory and have built in some way, a monster that now has gotten out of control. We may not be slave owners as fans but we certainly are buying the cotton and smoking the tobacco. Is it time to sink the ship or let it sail on?
1. Bootlel Staff, The. “Scout.com: The Bootleg’s 2012 Graduation Rate Analysis.”Scout.com: The Bootleg’s 2012 Graduation Rate Analysis . Fox Sports, 3 May 2012. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.
2. Crain, Abbey, and Matt Ford. “The Final Barrier: 50 Years Later, Segregation Still Exists.” The Crimson White . The Crimson White, 11 Sept. 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.