One of the fastest growing monopolies in America today is seen and enjoyed by millions of people every Saturday: college football. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has long capitalized off of the blood, sweat, and tears of young men in football uniforms in order to make millions of dollars. For years, this exploitation has gone unchecked and unopposed. But now student-athletes are starting to take a stand against the long history of injustice.
In a recent USA Today article, light was shed on one example of the NCAA, in essence, pimping out its players. A common practice of football players is to “spat” their ankles. This is when a player has tape wrapped around their ankle and the arch of their foot in order to promote stability and comfort, and to help prevent ankle sprains. But teams are now telling their players to stop spatting their cleats. The reason: shoe contracts. Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour all have extensive shoe deals with colleges. When players spat their shoes, it often covers up the company’s logo on the side of the shoe. According to the article, school’s can take a substantial financial hit if they have too many players spatting their shoes–even if it places the players ankles at risk. The schools claim that their hands are tied due to the contracts, yet they haven’t stopped taking the money from the companies.
Electronic Arts recently announced that it would no longer be making its annual college football video game, settling a lawsuit from former college players seeking compensation for their play. They argue that since the universities make millions off of them, they deserve to receive stipends for their athletic contributions.
However, these arguments are not without opposition. Ryan West (12), an outside linebacker committed to play at Miami University (Ohio) next year disagrees, “No I don’t think they should [get paid]. Most of them are already getting at least a portion of their college tuition paid for, so I don’t think they need to be paid any extra money. Their academics should take care of the rest,” West said.
Student-athletes have begun to stand up for themselves and protest the grievances against them. Most recently, there has been a swirl of controversy surrounding the Grambling State University’s football team. On October 18, the team collectively chose not to travel to Jackson State for their game. The boycott sent shockwaves throughout the world of college football. Soon after, the players released their letter that they had sent to the Grambling State Administration. In the letter, they outlined the many areas where they felt they had been wronged:
“Mildew and mold can be seen on the ceiling, walls and floor…The uniforms are poorly cleaned and contribute to the multiple cases of staph infection…During summer 2013 we were told we would be taking two major trips this season, Kansas City, Missouri and the other to Indianapolis, Indiana. One trip was 14 hours while the other was 17. Players were drained and exhausted after those long rides. Long rides take a toll on athlete’s bodies both mentally and physically.”
This letter, and the subsequent boycott drew a lot of attention from the administration, who blamed state budget cuts for the lack of funding for the athletic department. When the national media began to investigate deeper, Grambling State was in a public relations nightmare.
For many of these athletes, the opportunity to play college football is the realization of their life’s work. By this point, they have spent countless hours in the weight room and on the practice field striving to get better. They take care of and condition their bodies with extreme diligence and discipline. Needless to say, instances like Grambling State hit home with all athletes planning to compete at the collegiate level. “I agree with them for boycotting. The conditions for their locker room and uniforms is awful. They are college athletes, and deserve to be treated like it. This is really embarrassing for their university,” West said.