Don’t Pimp Them, Pay Them


With the help of their Black studs, top ranked universities and coaches reap the economic benefits of the harvest (a winning season). Their spoils are endorsement deals with sports apparel companies, commercials, million-dollar contracts and video game revenues to Bowl Game money and publicity that ramp up admissions along with school profiles.  Coaches enjoy bonuses, endorsement deals and television shows, while athletes get room, board, books, tuition, and perhaps illegal payments on the side. What gets glossed over is the enormous revenue surrounding high-profile college athletic programs. The entities profiting most from college athletics escape scrutiny for exploitation, while athletes asking to be compensated for their lucrative labor are criticized. The universities and NCAA (like a pimp) enjoys the bulk of the profit from the labor and product the players bring to these spectacles. If pimping is about control, universities and the NCAA have mastery over players, rules, and a system that allows them to generate enormous capital, manage all the money and makes all decisions, while declaring a tax-exempt status. Even their mission is similar to that of a pimp.  The NCAA and universities claim to provide athletes with: protection and management.  Like a pimp their rap is also similar: if left to their own devices athletes (prostitutes) would make the wrong decisions and be exploited by those unconcerned with what is best for them.

Indeed, they are vulnerable to exploitation because high-profile collegiate amateur sports are big business, which explains why universities, coaches, and the NCAA are “big pimpin’.”  So why should athletes participate for the honor of the game, or accept as their only reward an “education” when everyone around them gets rich from their efforts?  This is the same “education” some claimed New School Baller LeBron James was missing out on by declaring himself for the NBA draft right out of high school. The same people who criticized him for taking his enormous talent directly to the NBA ignored the specious morality of his high school, which profited from selling the rights to televise several of his games on ESPN. The bottom line in American culture is cold, hard cash—dead presidents.  And, those who produce must be paid.

Academics and education is a myth, a lie.  In fact, academic often compete against athletics for the time of athletes involved in revenue-producing athletics like football and basketball. Unfortunately school often comes second because the stakes are high. Football teams receiving a BCS bid in 2009 earned their conference $18 million—win, lose or draw.  If a second team from a conference qualifies, the conference shares an additional $4.5 million.  In 2006-07, the thirty-four of schools entered into the NCAA basketball tournament from major conferences on average earned revenues of $9.4 million and an average profit of $4.4 million—an amazing 47 percent profit margin! (But basketball players did not receive a salary)  However, the NCAA Presidents’ Commission is hesitant to make any sustained or comprehensive reform of intercollegiate athletics.  Why?  Too much money is on the line. So with that in mind, it is evident that “big pimpin’” will be hard to stop.  It is now time for athletes to either get paid or remove the nonprofit status of the collegiate sport.  It cannot continue to exist both ways.  If University of Connecticut head basketball coach Jim Calhoun feels he is justified in earning several million annually because his program produced a multi-million dollar profit, then why is it wrong for his players, who earned this money, to get paid as well?

Personal Fouls in the College Game

Unfortunately colleges, universities, and even the NCAA are a sort of mafia that shakes down student-athletes for all their talent and sweat equity in exchange for “illegal” booster payments, “free tuition,” and an “education” (that there is scant time to achieve between preseason, summer and spring workouts and practices, film sessions, weight training, and travel). The pimps are the NCAA, coaches, and colleges that receive outrageous performance bonuses and revenues because of players’ performances. For the most part, a college “education” is a joke at most Division I universities. California state senator Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, compared athletes to sharecroppers, where the post-slavery, post-Reconstruction vocation left many forever in the debt of the White landowners whose fields they worked. Like sharecroppers who rarely left with a profit because of their debt to landowners, modern athletes are in a similar state. They have everything to lose. If they receive money, they are expelled; there is no health insurance for athletes participating in “voluntary” summer workouts—which are “strongly urged” if one is interested in renewing his scholarship. These sports-croppers are annually in debt to a coach who has the power to renew (or rescind) scholarships.

Sports have changed drastically, particularly on the collegiate level, where everyone “legally” profits from players’ sweat and toil, except them! Even AAU and high school coaches receive money, sneaker and sports apparel deals from the sweat of their players’ performances and to guide them toward certain schools. The college game is even worse. Coaches’ careers hinge on the signing of top-notch recruits. So much money is at stake that middle-aged White men will walk into the toughest housing project or neighborhood to get the recruit who will bring him conference titles, bowl bids, appearances in the Sweet Sixteen or Final Four, and, oh yeah, more money. Modern slaves (who receive food, shelter, and basic “education”) fill stadiums, draw television contracts, and bring exposure to programs along with pay raises, perks, and bonuses for coaches and athletic. BNS are angered that they do not see one “legal” cent from revenues generated, and that if caught with “extras” they stand to lose everything. This is unacceptable. How can every entity involved in sports from junior high school to college sports profit except the field hands? Such inequities must be challenged. It is time for exploitation to end and for revenues to be shared with players.

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3 Responses to Don’t Pimp Them, Pay Them

  1. Lisa Alford says:

    I read your recent article published in the Summer edition of Crisis Magazine and it is brilliant! You really exposed this industry for what it truly is and how it is taking advantage of young athletes. I am an avid NFL and NCAA Basketball fan and now have even more resentment for these schools and teams. Do you think that Reggie Bush’s recent decision to return his Heisman Trophy with spark some real attention and lead to any positive action concerning the plight of athletes? I can only hope that it will. I will pass this article onto as many folks as I can!
    Thanks,
    L. Alford

    • thabitilewis says:

      Lisa, sorry for the very, very late response. Long story.
      Thank you for your kind comments regarding the Crisis essay. I disagreed with Bush’s decision to return the Heisman. I do think that he was making a symbolic statement in giving it back–his gesture had greater resonance regarding its value and what he thinks about the entire system.

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