Home / General / Is the NCAA Cartel Defensible? (SPOILER: No.)

Is the NCAA Cartel Defensible? (SPOILER: No.)

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Paul’s thread yesterday contained some defenses of the exploitation of athletes by NCAA rules.  These defenses were, of course, rife with factual errors, non-sequiturs, and transparent illogic because all defenses of the NCAA cartel are. 

But there are also a lot of good comments, and I think this point by Pseudonym is particularly important:

The real question at issue isn’t whether they should be compensated but whether they should be barred from being compensated, and by a national cartel with a monopoly on the path to professional status.

Apologists for the NCAA cartel tend to assume that they’re advocating for athletes being treated like other students. But this is completely untrue. What they’re defending is in fact a set of unique and extraordinary burdens being placed on athletes. Virtually no other students are banned from receiving compensation from voluntary third parties, and this is because it won’t make a lick of sense. Why on earth shouldn’t a music student be able to take a paying gig or a journalism student sell a story? Similarly, we don’t claim that scholarship students working as RAs or in the bookstore can’t be compensated, or that staff and faculty who get tuition vouchers for family members don’t need to be additionally compensated for their work. These rules aren’t about ensuring that athletes are “really” students or whatever; they’re about attempting to preserve competitive balance. And this isn’t a good reason to allow athletes to be exploited, even before we get to the fact that the NCAA doesn’t have anything remotely resembling competitive balance even with these rules.

Like most NCAA critics, I’m not arguing that student-athletes are employees subject to minimum wage laws solely for being members of teams. I’m saying that if either colleges or third parties want to pay them market value for their services, they should not forbidden from making the deals. This allows us to quickly dispense with non-sequiturs about the cross-country team or (even sillier) the Dungeons&Dragons club. Most athletic events and intramural activities don’t produce any revenue, so there’s not going to be any money for the participants beyond scholarship money, and that’s fine with me. There might be some cases in which a rich donor really wants an alma mater to have a great cross-country team and offers recruits cash on the barrelhead. And that’s fine with me — I don’t see why donors can give money to universities that enable them to hire a new Associate Vice Provost and Assistant Under Dean For Proactive Strategic Dynamism but should be prohibited from giving money to athletes directly.

Finally, defenses of the NCAA tend to be rife with a rhetorical technique we’ve discussed recently: someone with an indefensible position changing the subject to an allegedly superior alternative that isn’t actually on offer. The obvious problem for NCAA apologists that Paul’s post raises is why athletes should be forbidden cash compensation — not only by universities but by third parties — because of the Noble Ideals of Amateurism and the Sanctity of the Groves of Academe while everybody else involved with the NCAA is allowed to fill up wheelbarrows full of cash and deposit them in university-provided cars and drive off to get a university-provided oil change. One answer is to say that all of the other NCAA-related profit-taking should be stopped. The obvious problem is that it’s not going to be, and in the meantime we have to treat athletes based on the system as it is. If coaches start getting paid like associate professors of English and the NCAA gives its games to networks for free while banning advertising and ticket prices are capped at $10, we can talk about whether scholarships are adequate compensation. (We still don’t need to talk about bans on third party compensation, because these are just terrible policy under any possible system of college athletics.) Until then, players should not be forbidden from getting any compensation they’re able to negotiate.

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  • MDrew

    The real question at issue isn’t whether they should be compensated but whether they should be barred from being compensated, and by a national cartel with a monopoly on the path to professional status.

    This was the clearest, most unassailable point made in the thread, to be sure. I absolutely think that is the issue to deal with, and I absolutely think that that rule should not exist.

    However, the question that I believed I was engaging with was the question of whether, regardless of a rule against it, there should be a rule, whether formal or a generally agreed upon ethical rule, that players (of some description) should or must be compensated, because reasons and definitions. I.e. that all of them should, not just the ones that universities will be actually motivated to compensate, and that even if students would willingly show up to participate (play) on a volunteer basis, they should/must (whether by formal or agreed-upon ethical rule) be compensated in currency for it, otherwise the university be barred from allowing said participation (or harshly criticized for violating a clear, broadly accepted ethical rule).

    • Hogan

      People should receive at least some of the fruits of their labor. If those fruits include money, they should get some. Clear enough?

      • busker type

        synopsis of the lengthy thread below:
        MDrew chooses not to reply to a succinct and comprehensive answer to his question.

        • MDrew

          If everyone agrees that this is the substantive rule and all of the moral logic necessary to establish it as correct and necessary, great. Then at least we’re clear what the argument is. It reads more like a bare assertion to me, and one that didn’t offer nearly as much as others have, presumably because others agree that more argument is necessary. So I responded to them instead.

          People can choose to engage in activities that will bear monetary fruits for others on terms that may or will not direct some of those fruits to themselves. It seems to me that something more than bare assertion is necessary to establish that this should not be allowed.

          • busker type

            so your question is “why do people deserve a share of the fruits of their labor?”

            really?

            • MDrew

              No, my question is why they should necessarily receive a share of the fruits of their labor in cash form even when/if they may not prioritize that and instead prefer not to condition doing that labor on such receipt. Why they should not be allowed to make that choice hold sway, why instead it should be decided that what “should” happen is that they should receive “A” (compensation in the form of a thing of value rather than experience and training in a certain sport) in the form of “B” (cash) rather than “C” (the opportunity to earn college credit tuition-free).

              I don’t question why someone should receive X for doing Y when they condition doing Y on receiving X and someone is willing to give them X so that they’ll do Y. For most X and Y, freedom of contract should allow that to happen.

              So, no, my question here is not why do people deserve a share of the fruits of their labor. OTOH, I don’t know that that is a totally obvious question, either, except on a gut emotional level, which indeed might be the level on which you think it is obvious. I don’t know that I have always been completely persuaded by Locke. We could have that discussion; it might be interesting.

              But here that is not my question. Here my question is why, if someone prefers for something else to happen, people should receive a share of the fruits of their labor in a certain form rather than some other forms, or that the share should be a certain size even if the person feels it is in their more in their interest at a certain time not to demand that it be that size. Etc.: why what we think they should receive should override what they wish to condition their actions upon.

              • busker type

                so now you’re claiming that someone is attempting to force college athletes to take money that they don’t want?

                really?

                • MDrew

                  I think there are some athletes who would show up to play some college sports for free, whom some people in these threads, or at least some people somewhere, would require to be paid if they had their druthers. I think it’s likely that if universities were forced by a rule to pay all athletes in certain sports, some of those athletes who would be willing to play for free would not be given offers to play for the pay that was required. If those athletes were told they would not be receiving offers to play for the required pay but would receive offers to play if there were not a requirement they be paid, I believe a number of them would prefer to have the offers to play (for free), and accept one of them, rather than to have the rule in place and not receive an offer to play.

                  So, yes. I do claim that some people think such requirements should exist. Whether they are “attempting to force college athletes to take money that they don’t want” is not something I feel I am trying to speak to, but I do think some people believe such rules should exist, yes.

                  If no one is saying that, and there is no need for such instances of enforcement to occur whatsoever, then we ought to be able to take such rules off the table altogether, and simply adopt Scott’s position that the requisite reform is simply to allow that some players can be paid if that is what interests lead to. If we all can agree that only that is what needs to change, then that would be lovely.

                • busker type

                  whom some people in these threads, or at least some people somewhere, would require to be paid if they had their druthers.

                  “Some people somewhere” probably do think that. congratulations, you’re right.

                • MDrew

                  I’m not clear how that’s not essentially the rule Hogan whose comment you criticized me for not addressing is implying should exist. I thought it was unlikely that he would think that we should be working to determine that on teams whose overall labors clearly do produce extensive monetary fruits, will be some players whose labors do not actually contribute to the cultivation of those fruits, and which players those are. But perhaps that is exactly what he thinks.

                  But, yes, you’re right that I’m probably right that regardless of Hogan and others here who it seems to me have suggested they think that, some people probably do think that somewhere. I don’t think it’s actually all that trivial a number, tbh. So I feel it’s fair to think through the position.

              • Hogan

                No, my question is why they should necessarily receive a share of the fruits of their labor in cash form even when/if they may not prioritize that and instead prefer not to condition doing that labor on such receipt.

                But I didn’t say that.

                It’s possible to believe, e.g., that all adult citizens should be allowed to elect their leaders while not believing that all adult citizens should be required to vote in all elections. Difficult, maybe, but possible.

                • MDrew

                  “People should receive at least some of the fruits of their labor. If those fruits include money, they should get some.”

                  We all stipulate we’re considering situations in which the “fruits” do include money. So, yes. You did say that.

                  Clear enough?

                • Hogan

                  If you don’t know the difference between “should” and “must,” then yes, it’s perfectly clear.

                • MDrew

                  Well, I didn’t say must. You said should: I asked why they should necessarily. If you say something should happen and don’t provide exceptions that at least suggests that you’re saying it necessarily should happen. “X should happen” is a categorical statement; it has the same meaning absent qualification as “X necessarily should happen.” If you now want to amend to include exceptions to the rule, great. There should be exceptions to the rule, or possibly certain definitions make it not apply here, or possibly it’s not even a rule that in general holds. Reflection on complexity is almost always better than the glib promulgation of reductive, simplistic, one-line moral pronouncements.

                  But on the issue of should and must, whether there is a formal rule creating a “must,” what you said is that they should do what they should do. If they did that, that would create a situation in which the same things were happening as if there were a rule that the same exact thing happen, and it was being universally obeyed. So the same realists would flow. So it’s not a practically significant distinction.

                  More generally, a “should” statement actually is a rule – a “must statement.” It is a must statement that says what parties must do in order to be ethical. If we want to establish a moral obligation for colleges to act ethically in this domain, which is what animates this whole discussion and clearly animated your glib offering above, then a statement about what they should do is in essence a statement about what they must do to be ethical.

                • Hogan

                  You’re confusing what the institution should do with what the athlete should do.

    • So the incoherence gets worse overnight?

      Regardless of a rule there should be a rule?

      And are you engaging in question if you make zero attempt to provide an answer?

      It is a little clearer the weirdness of your question, though. Why anyone should care about it, I’m less clear.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Why anyone should care about it, I’m less clear.

        Indeed. This seems to be to be the endpoint of more sophisticated NCAA apologists — start asking for answers to questions nobody except themselves are asking.

        • There seems to be a reasonable near question: what’s a good policy for determining when students are workers. This is in fact a good thing to figure out. But that’s not a question MDrew wants to consider. Instead, some other question that requires a very specific sort of answer (being a workable policy doesn’t count!).

          But it is of a piece with the huge contempt for students exhibited by several people in that thread.

          • MDrew

            Of course that’s the question I’m interested in. Your contention that because I don’t have a good idea for an answer I shouldn’t be asking the question is not worth any time.

            It’s not the question Scott addresses in this post, nor does it seem to be a major part of how he approaches whether, when, and why college athletes should be paid by universities. But he does seem to have something of a view on it, and it seems to conflict with your view of it. And it is at the center of your answers to the questions of whether, when, and why college athletes should be paid by universities. So it seems there is some conflict among the righteous on those questions.

            Which seems significant to me – it’s certainly significant for my process of only very slowly forming definite conclusions on these questions.

            • MDrew

              …I should say, that in that thread what I was interested in was the question you name… because it was proffered as the logic behind the answer to whether, when, and why college athletes should be paid by universities. I’m also interested in that question on its own (though less so because it is in practice fairly well-answered, with college athletes coming down on the “not workers” side for whatever reason), but here primarily because there is such clarity offered on the simple binary should/shouldn’t they (but then still, who – basketball players, divers, etc.?) be paid, and you happened to offer the “because they are workers” response as the why.

              More broadly for this discussion, however, I am primarily interested in whether, when, and why college athletes should be paid by universities (or not allowed to be). On that question, as far as I understand it, and taking what’s offered here to be more or less Scott’s full position on the question, I agree both with his substantive response (whether and when/who should be paid), and the reason (because there should not be collusion to prevent it, which will provide that it will simply happen when the university wants it to and not when not, likely with significant numbers of athletes on the same teams with the same commitment of time being either paid or not paid).

              My observation would be that yesterday that was not your substantive position nor your reasoning. But maybe it is today. Is it?

              • Oh well, try again.

                Or…try for the first time?

                • MDrew

                  No, I did fine on that try.

              • busker type

                What you’re missing here is that if players are not prevented from being paid by a powerful monopoly (the NCAA) they will then have the agency to demand payment based on their market value as players/workers. In football and basketball some of those values would be quite high. In swimming the value will be low to non-existent, and individual athletes can choose to compete for fun, or simply not compete.
                There is no need to make a rule about which athletes should be paid, the market will take care of it.

                • I agree with this.

                  I also think that universities should not exploit people as cheap labor. Cf adjuncts and grad student labor. Since universities often are conceived as having duties of care toward students, I think the burden is extra strong.

                  Of course having rules which *prevent* students from earning money for no educational reason at all is precisely the opposite of what a duty to care would enjoin.

                • MDrew

                  In swimming the value will be low to non-existent, and individual athletes can choose to compete for fun, or simply not compete.
                  There is no need to make a rule about which athletes should be paid, the market will take care of it.

                  So if the organization isn’t profitable, the workers won’t get paid. Just they way we treat all other workers.

                  Oh, sorry, the definition is, if you’re not working for a profitabl enterprise or for an organization that does not seek to and does not make a profit, then you are not a worker, and you need not be paid.

                  Just the way we do things everywhere else, as you’re proposing we do here.

                • djw

                  You’re conflating/confusing “the market” used broadly with profitability. The foolishness of this is obviously if you think about it for half a second–there’s an existing ‘market’ for non-profit employees.

                • MDrew

                  But there’s also a rule that they be paid.

                • efgoldman

                  There is no need to make a rule about which athletes should be paid, the market will take care of it.

                  Right.
                  At the D2, D3 and NAIA schools there’s no question of even football and hoops players being compensated, because they’re not making hundreds of millions of dollars for the schools, the conferences, or the NCAA. The programs, in fact, are funded by the schools and are usually net expenses, less any actual ticket sales.

            • Of course that’s the question I’m interested in. Your contention that because I don’t have a good idea for an answer I shouldn’t be asking the question is not worth any time.

              Alas that is no contention of mine. Sorry, but you’re still failing basic dialectic.

              Plus, I don’t see any daylight between my position and Scott’s contrary to your assertion.

              I certainly think that the minimum position is that compensation shouldn’t be barred.

              So wrong again!

              • MDrew

                I don’t know what the contention of this

                And are you engaging in question if you make zero attempt to provide an answer?

                is, then. Which is fine. Yes, I am asking a question.

                If what you were arguing for yesterday wasn’t an argument for a minimum requirement of some kind (ethically if not in formal, written rulemaking), then I missed where I should have picked that up.

                Obviously, there is no daylight between Scott’s position and the part of the argument you were making yesterday that simply requires that the full extent of Scott’s position holds. But what you were arguing for yesterday went much further than Scott’s does. If you’re no longer saying that what you were arguing for yesterday involves any kind of ethical obligation on the part of universities beyond that they not collude to prevent payment, hey, that’s a development. But it’s not the extent of what you were arguing for yesterday

                • You said my contention was that you had to have a good answer.

                  My actual quote says that making zero attempt to provide an answer is prima facie evidence of not engaging in a question.

                  The difference is unsubtle.

                • Oh and did you even note that is said Scott’s position about not forbidding was not the whole of my view? (I doubt it’s the whole of Scott’s.)

                  So…no, there’s no movement on my part. Your Gish galloping doesn’t help your case.

                • MDrew

                  Okay, not shouldn’t be asking a question, but in fact am not. Which is a patently absurd thing to assert, so I gave you presumptive credit that you weren’t. But I guess you are. My bad.

                  Yes, the point is that Scott’s position is not the whole of yours, and that on much of yours it looks to me like there is important departure from Scott’s. You can have your doubts, and I can have my… reading.

                • There is a unsubtle difference between asking a question and engaging with it.

                  So this really is just bad faith by you? #justaskingquestions

                • MDrew

                  Okay, perhaps I’m not “engaging” in the question by your definition?

                  The initial charge was “that’s not a question MDrew wants to consider.”

                  So, we agree that I’m asking the question. You claimed I wasn’t willing to “consider” it, though. But you then immediately shifted the goal post to whether I was “engaging” with it.

                  I don’t really care. I don’t claim to have good answers to the questions I’m asking. That’s why I’m asking them. I don’t need to have them to be asking them in good faith if I’m open about that.

                  “So this really is just bad faith by you?” No.

                • I’ve not shifted goalposts at all.

                  You said you were engaging in a question. I questioned that since you certainly weren’t in the prior thread.

                  I said you weren’t willing to consider a different question since you specifically said here you were focused on athletics and you didn’t even note all the non athletic examples I discussed yesterday.

                  You sure seem to be not wanting to answer or even work toward answering the questions you ask or nearby ones.

                  Below, you request people generate ideal athletic systems yet don’t take a stab yourself. Why not, if only to get things rolling?

                  Given your past performance, it looks like a trap. Since you don’t even read what people right or engage in points raised, yeah, this doesn’t look like genuine questioning.

                  Perhaps I’m wrong and we just got into a weird conversational space. But I did a lot more work toward meeting you up to generating a definition than you’ve done to meeting anyone else.

                  So, eh.

                • MDrew

                  Since you are placing such emphasis on the specific meaning and import of the word “engage” here, please cite to where I claimed to be doing that?

                  I am interested in figuring out how to say when a student is a worker, but I admitted up front when you raised that I might be interested in it, to be, here and now, primarily interested in it as means of figuring out the question of whether/when college athletes should be paid. I’ve said that’s my interested, and I’ve acted like it. And, yes, I don’t have a good sense of it myself, and I do intend to interrogate answers to it, well, period, but certainly ones that seem pat or off-hand, or that don’t seem to wrestle with the difficulty of the question, as your entire attitude yesterday suggested. And I intend to keep the focus of that inquiry on the implications for college athletes, since that’s obviously the animating interest in all of this.

                  If that’s a problem, well, you can do what you want about it. You can certainly disengage. But I’ve been pretty transparent about all of that all along.

                • In the first comment on this post:

                  However, the question that I believed I was engaging with was the question of whether,

                  I will concede that you actually used the word “engaging”.

                  This was also a problem yesterday when you wouldn’t go back to read what was written. But you wrote this!!

                • MDrew

                  …And as to my question below, if people want to feel like It’s A Trap, they may. It’s a question I don’t have any kind of handle on myself, and, despite thinking about it fairly often, can’t seem to get much of one going. That’s why I’m asking if others have a sense of it for themselves.

                  I’ll certainly think about it more in the coming day or so, and see if I can offer something up. (No promises!) The problem is not that I can’t come up with possibilities, the problem is determining if I have any particular attachment to any of them.

                  More generally, your complaints about my not offering answers to these questions about why this and that is an obligation of this or that party lack oompf because they fail to acknowledge the accountability one incurs when making such assertions. If you advance a position, people can ask about yorr reasons.

                  I’m not saying any particular thing is the answer to which athletes should get paid. Maybe basketball players and divers should, maybe only basketball players should, maybe neither must even though both should be allowed to be, as far as I currently hold. I don’t know the answer to “must college athletes be paid?” so I don’t have answers to why, nor in general what students should be paid for what. That should be clear enough.

                  You, however, claim to have at least some of those answers. So I’m asking after your reasons. It’s pretty simple. Maybe you have no such reasons, but by having the positions, you can be asked after the reasons – in particular by people who don’t have any positions on the questions, because they feel they don’t have reasons. Perhaps those people are not in your mind “engaging” in the questions because they don’t offer their own reasons (that they openly don’t have), but I don’t follow the import of that. You have positions; I’m asking about the reasons. I don’t have the positions, so I don’t have reasons, so I don’t have answers to the questions I’m asking about your reasons. That’s why I’m curious about them.

                  What’s complicated here?

                • While I certainly understand why you would want to demand precision of others while eschewing it, I’d strongly prefer that you didn’t attribute views to me based on substituting words I didn’t use for words I did use which distorts my meaning. Refuting the view I didn’t have is esp poor form. Pretending to refute it is funny.

                  And I might use different words for different things! This is not goal shifting unless I do so to shift goals! But then it would be better to show what the goals were that I’m shifting.

                  I objected both to your pretending to engage when you were clearly #justaskingquestions. I also object to your avoiding discussion of university employment of students more generally especially when you claim otherwise. One goal (don’t make false claims about what you’re doing) with two separate instances. No shift. I might be wrong about what you were doing, but I’m not shifting any goals.

                • MDrew

                  There it is. “Engaging”! (Score one you!)

                  Yes, I think I have engaged the questions raised by your assertions of ethical obligation in the other thread by raising other questions about them. That’s what I claim there.

                  If you believe that a question cannot be engaged only by asking questions about it, fair enough. Then we may disagree about the meaning of the term. Or perhaps I used the term in a way that was wrong. I don’t think so, but perhaps.

                  I’m not going to give it much thought because it is a semantic discussion. Whatever we call it, I have asked these questions while being open about the fact that i don’t have answers to them. It is what it is. I don’t feel there’s a problem with that, and it seemed enough of interest to you to spend a considerable part of two days being involved in it with me. So… maybe it wasn’t entirely unfruitful? Glass half full?

                • Eh.

                  I gave you definitions rooted in pretty common accounts. (Again, look at law around unpaid internships.) and you didn’t engage with it at all.

                  And you didn’t start with that. You asked a random question. After pepper answered you merely said that they were no good because different. When shown that they were coherent you claimed they didn’t follow from definitions. When given a defintion you whaaed about it (you did not ask clarifying questions, you just pooh poohed it with a weird mishmash of irrelevant questions).

                  Here you distort what I write. You don’t look up what you wrote. In the other thread you wouldn’t reread comments I wrote without links.

                  It’s all this that’s the problem.

                • MDrew

                  I’d strongly prefer that you didn’t attribute views to me based on substituting words I didn’t use for words I did use which distorts my meaning. Refuting the view I didn’t have is esp poor form. Pretending to refute it is funny.

                  And I might use different words for different things! This is not goal shifting unless I do so to shift goals! But then it would be better to show what the goals were that I’m shifting.

                  I objected both to your pretending to engage when you were clearly #justaskingquestions. I also object to your avoiding discussion of university employment of students more generally especially when you claim otherwise. One goal (don’t make false claims about what you’re doing) with two separate instances. No shift. I might be wrong about what you were doing, but I’m not shifting any goals.

                  I can’t follow everything you’re referring to here. I don’t know which words you think I substituted where, nor what views you think I think I am refuting that in fact you don’t have but that I concocted. I know I’m not trying to refute any of your views. You can explain all of that if you want, but I probably won’t attend to it.

                  I know you initially said to Scott that i wasn’t interested in considering a certain question. Later you said I wasn’t engaging said question. Meanwhile, I’ve been pretty open about what I’m interested in the whole time.

                • MDrew

                  I did think that some of the language in your definition seemed to just move the discussion to a set of other undefined terms. I didn’t realize that they were defined somewhere else. You’ll note that there was no pushback to your citing internship rules once I understood where the language was coming from.

                  I feel that I did engage by taking a particular example and trying to apply each of the prongs of your rule to it. What would have been relevant or not relevant to use for that example? I admit that my energy and time were flagging at that point. I couldn’t go through and quiz you on each prong.

                  You’ve been mostly engaged in attacking my argumentation and good faith for most of the discussion starting midway through yesterday at this point. You may have a fair point here or there, but I think we can both agree that the returns at this point are diminishing. I don’t have any other choice but to take my leave now. I genuinely have obligations.

                  I’m sorry you feel that so much of this was undertaken in bad faith. I have not meant to misrepresent what you’ve said, and my aim hasn’t been to refute any of your views. I do admit to being generally uninterested in searching out whatever bits of argument it is you have cited. It’s easy enough for you to reproduce it if you feel it has value to you. That seems like a fair expectation. And I am certainly fairly accused of not always fully recalling nor being bothered to review exactly what has been written. Again, though, if you want to make a point about what I’ve said, it’s easy enough to just reproduce it.

                  Have a good evening.

                • efgoldman

                  If that’s a problem, well, you can do what you want about it. You can certainly disengage. But I’ve been pretty transparent about all of that all along.

                  Put it away already, for FSM’s sake.
                  I went to school (in the dark ages), and have worked with people who just. can’t. let. it. go.
                  I might even be related to some.
                  T’ain’t worth it.

                • MDrew

                  WTF.

                  That was my last comment. I made that clear. It’s away, except apparently not for you. Rather, you’re taking the opportunity to make sure it’s you who gets the last, last word.

                  So what the fuck are you talking about?

            • cpinva

              “Of course that’s the question I’m interested in.”

              fine, except for the minor problem of it not being the question this thread is discussing. the question this thread is discussing is:

              “what legitimate purpose is served by barring athletes, scholarship or not, who participate in NCAA sanctioned sports, from receiving voluntary payments from third parties?”

              your question has nothing to do with this, your posts serving only to clog up the LG&M server, while contributing less than zero to the discussion at hand.

              a close to home example of the disparity between NCAA athletes, and the rest of the student body.:

              my niece was awarded a full ride, 4 year music scholarship, to a small, private college in western IL. the only requirement was that she maintain a B average. suffice it to say my brother and his wife were thrilled, and I was homicidally jealous! the scholarship didn’t include spending money, which my brother could easily afford to send her. however, niece wasn’t barred from receiving cash on the side, as part of the scholarship. she joined a jazz quartet, doing a few gigs a month (on weekend nights), which paid her a couple of hundred dollars, more than sufficient to cover needs the scholarship didn’t.

              not a peep was heard negatively about this arrangement. as long as she maintained her required grade point average, no one cared. in fact, if anything, it contributed to her improved musicianship, win-win. no doubt there is a CS major, with the same deal, doing consulting for MS on the side, for a hundred bucks an hour, at some college/university, with the same nothing reaction.

              if it’s ok for non-athletic scholarship types, it should be good enough for the scholarship athletes, and no particularly good reason has ever been offered as to why it isn’t, except for the fact that those dollars aren’t going to either the school’s or NCAA’s coffers.

              • MDrew

                You’re right that it’s not what Scott is addressing. That’s a big part of my point to another commenter in this thread in a discussion that is continuation of another discussion from yesterday that is on that point.

                If the administrators are concerned that that continuation places a stress on the servers they are concerned about, I trust they will let us know. Otherwise, maybe you could allow a discussion from a previous thread that is related to this post, though on a different particular point proceed?

                I agree that your niece should be allowed to gig, as she is, and I agree about the point the analogy makes about what scholarship athletes should be allowed to do.

              • efgoldman

                however, niece wasn’t barred from receiving cash on the side, as part of the scholarship. she joined a jazz quartet, doing a few gigs a month (on weekend nights),

                As I posted yesterday, I went to school with a cellist, full music scholarship, who was a full member of the Boston Symphony, at the full Union scale, while he was in school.

                • MDrew

                  I’m a cellist, or at least used my youth to make what I deemed as earnest an attempt to make myself one as I could make. And let me just say: that is fucking impressive.

  • sleepyirv

    And what this is really all suppose to defend? Amateurism?

    Amateurism is not a real value. It’s not like MLK gets bonus points for being an amateur social movement leader or something. Being a professional in most things hasn’t been shameful since Victorian England.

    Amateurism use to be a big deal in the Olympics, tennis, and golf (the latter two had all their prestige events limited to amateurs) until it withered away without killing any of them. The idea was to separate the people who were in it for the love of the game for the people who wanted money. But that’s absurd and impossible. What amateurism actually did was keep out anyone who didn’t have a fortune and thus could dedicate the time and resources necessary to become a top athlete. There’s a reason all the best tennis players of the early 20th Century were rich and it had little to do with natural talent.

    College Football and Basketball is just the biggest interning scam in history. Colleges provide the time and the resources so top athletes can enter the profession, BUT this isn’t coming out of the goodness of their hearts. They make a lot of money providing those resources. Money they do not need to pass down to athletes to their “market-worth” whatever that may be and it’s absurd so called “free-market” Republicans claim that should be limit to their scholarships because that’s what “feels” right to them. Shouldn’t a market make that decision instead of the NCAA cartel?

    • Scott Lemieux

      Amateurism is not a real value.

      This.

      But that’s absurd and impossible. What amateurism actually did was keep out anyone who didn’t have a fortune and thus could dedicate the time and resources necessary to become a top athlete.

      Or you could live in a country where you’re paid to play a sport full time but the economic structure could maintain the pretense that you were paid for being in the army or something.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        And, in fact, the more sophisticated defenders of the status quo have more or less abandoned the amateurism argument in favor of suggesting that scholarships are a form of compensation and that opponents of the status quo don’t acknowledge how generous they are. Of course this is a total non-sequitur (especially in relation to the case against the rules barring third-party compensation). Though it does suggest to me that the case for the status quo is rapidly crumbling. Amateurism was always a terrible argument. But at least it was an argument.

        • ThrottleJockey

          I think the rules barring 3rd party compensation are horrible in practice (Are tattoos or free clothes really compensation?)…But my principal objection to changing the current system is that we would have a system that would elevate a minority of the students (football & basketball players at profitable schools) over all other athletes (eg, in volleyball, crew, gymnastics, or track)…Let the football & basketball players get 3rd party money and athletes in unprofitable sports will be fine. But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

          • Brien Jackson

            Some professionals get paid more than others. So what?

            • efgoldman

              Some professionals get paid more than others. So what?

              Masters of the universe and neurosurgeons make a lot more than teachers and hotel maids.
              May be unfortunate, we may wish it weren’t so, but there we are.

          • JL

            You don’t think football and basketball players at schools with major D1 programs are already regarded differently around those campuses, in various ways, than the other athletes?

            The way I see it, allowing third party compensation taking anything away from the non-football/b-ball athletes. They just aren’t likely to get as much third party compensation. Though I would point out that this change might benefit the college athletes in non-football/b-ball sports who are Olympic athletes are similar, as Olympic athletes sometimes get endorsement deals. Plenty of Olympic swimmers and track & field athletes seem to come from the college ranks, and the school where I did my MS had four women’s hockey players who competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

          • ChrisS

            The easy way around this is to not have colleges operating revenue-generating sports.

            Football and basketball should be spun-off as separate from the university.

    • JL

      Amateurism is not a real value. It’s not like MLK gets bonus points for being an amateur social movement leader or something.

      This is an interesting comment because I very often see trolls and opponents to social movements coming down in favor of amateurism in social movements (that they oppose) – i.e. claiming that activists are illegitimate because they receive money for movement work. People troll the hell out of Operation Help or Hush, a Ferguson charity that helps financially-struggling activists with housing and food bills, on the grounds of “See, your movement isn’t real, because you pay people to protest.”

      I’ve also seen plenty of people who work unpaid in certain “helping” fields laud their amateur status as making them cooler than the career people – volunteer firefighters, for instance.

      • Lee Rudolph

        I’ve also seen plenty of people who work unpaid in certain “helping” fields laud their amateur status as making them cooler than the career people

        “I’m an amateur anesthesiologist! Here, swallow this!!!”

        • mikeSchilling

          “I’m a man of the people, not one of them professional politicians. Swallow this!”

  • MDrew

    Wow. I guess people have other things to do on a Sunday.

    • postmodulator

      This is nothing. The Uncle Tom’s Cabin thread is the first zero-comment thread I’ve seen in my brief-ish time at LGM.

      • MDrew

        Fair point. When I wrote this my first comment was the only one up, and it was at least an hour after the post went up (I think). But, yeah. Indeed.

  • LosGatosCA

    Personally, I think that sports fans are entitled to their preferred entertainment regardless of the ethical considerations about how that entertainment is provided or who owns the entertainment franchise they prefer to be entertained by. Why should sports be different than the shirts we get from Bangladesh?

    Further, I think that the owners of the franchise, pro or college, have the inalienable right to conspire with other franchises to have complete control of the lives of the talent used by the franchises both individually and collectively.

    At no point does the right of the fans to be entertained or the franchise owners (pro or college) to maximize their profits/salaries require any consideration of the talent in terms other than their availability to entertain and for the franchise owners to be assured that the competition between the franchises is conducted on a level playing field.

    Anyone that thinks college athletes should be compensated relative to the cash value they generate, should be free to negotiate their own endorsement deals, or take off season jobs that utilize their skills and aid in their professional development must be fucking Commie sympathizers or engineering majors.

    • StarryEyedHater

      You joke, but this is word for word one of the most common positions on this issue.

      • ThrottleJockey

        To be honest, I can’t recall having heard anyone defend the status quo–pundits, analysts, broadcasters, commentators, hell, even most of my friends–who wasn’t presently being paid by the NCAA.

        Except me. So, I think the sentiment is heading in the direction of those who demand compensation for athletes. I think it will be bad for everyone except for the “1%” of football and basketball players, but whatevs.

    • CrunchyFrog

      Yep. And when the football players do leave college for the pros, under no circumstances should the athletes have any say in which team they work for. They are to be indentured servants for 3-5 years (depending on their position in the “draft”). If they are really, really good at their jobs they’ll be stuck to that team forever if the team wants. And the fans will be furious at them if they leave for not showing loyalty to the team that chose them, without their consent. They may achieve something like market value after the 3-5 year waiting period, but as that (not coincidentally) is about the average career span of an NFL player, at least half of them won’t get this opportunity. If they do get the opportunity they’ll be expected to sign “multi-year” contracts in which they give up their right to play for another team for the duration of the contract, but the team can cut them at any time. For a very few signing bonuses will work to their advantage, the rest get screwed.

      And, yet, somehow, all fans, even the most progressive, will see the “draft” as something right and normal and spend all kinds of time reading about it. Can you imagine financial firms or law firms or engineering firms conspiring to force the top graduates into a draft at below-market wages, and locked into one firm, for the first 50% of their careers?

      • Brien Jackson

        The draft system is collectively bargained. I don’t think it’s an efficient way of allocating talent (even in the NFL), but it’s not true that workers have no say in the matter.

        • mikeSchilling

          As is the salary cap.

          • Brien Jackson

            Um….yes?

        • CrunchyFrog

          Sorry but I call bullshit on this:

          it’s not true that workers have no say in the matter

          The workers who voted to approve the contract had already received their rookie contracts – they were not affected by the provisions enforced on future rookies.

          The NFL lawyers basically got the veterans to vote to screw future rookies. Similar to the way the NBA got the majority of non-star players to vote to screw the star players.

          MLB tried this (before they were “MLB”) in 1981 – that is, tried to get the majority of aged veterans to agree to rules that would screw the younger players – but the veterans wouldn’t budge. Credit Marvin Miller. Unfortunately, the NFL and NBA have had doofuses as union leaders.

          And let’s understand something very important – in the case of MLB the union managed to bargain a net gain for the players. In the NFL, NBA, and NHL the unions basically gave away the rights granted when the reserve clause was declared illegal for marginal gain. In those three sports the unions are more beneficial to the owners than the players.

          • efgoldman

            In the NFL, NBA, and NHL the unions basically gave away the rights granted when the reserve clause was declared illegal for marginal gain. In those three sports the unions are more beneficial to the owners than the players.

            Yup. The NFL players won complete free agency in federal court, and Gene Upshaw gave it away.
            The NHL is the worst, though, with their unconscionable “escrow” system, currently 16%. So a “million-dollar” contract is actually worth $840k. More than I make, but that doesn’t make it right.

          • mikeSchilling

            When was the reserve clause declared illegal?

            • liberalrob

              In baseball, it was the Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally arbitration case, 1975.

          • Brien Jackson

            Well the MLBPA just let Selig hoodwink them into yutzing up free agency with the draft pool and pick forfeiture system too. And yes, veterans in all of these sports definitely think they can better themselves by limiting the earnings of rookies which, for the most part, isn’t true. I’m not sure how that changes the basic fact that unions bargain on behalf of not-yet-members all the time.

  • MDrew

    Let me try to turn the discussion around a bit to try to clarify some priors.

    Do we (you) wish there to be a thing, let’s say an institution, in this country called “intercollegiate athletics”? Starting from scratch, aiming for something roughly ideal or at least that we can affirm, what do we (you) think that thing should be? What do we (you) think it should be like?

    The only particulars that need to be included to make sense out of such a discussion would be the relevant ones.

    • busker type

      me personally, I don’t care one iota whether there are intercollegiate athletics or not. But given that there are, and given that some set of intercollegiate athletes bring in fabulous sums of money for the universities and for the coaches, ADs and administrators of the university, I think that those athletes should have the right to demand whatever compensation the market will bear without interference from the NCAA.

      I think it would be better for our educational system if there were functional minor leagues associated with the NBA and the NFL and thereby collegiate athletics was relegated to obscurity, (think of collegiate baseball) but that is extremely unlikely to happen.

      • MDrew

        I certainly agree with the first paragraph. I have my doubts that college football and college basketball in an environment that had zero-and-done rules and minor leagues for the NFL and NBA would sink into college-baseball-level obscurity.

        I appreciate your response, and your views on what the requirements should be if there are to be college athletics are entirely valuable. The point of my query, however, is ultimately to get a sense of what people who affirmatively want there to be college athletics and want it to be something in which they can place some value, want it to be like.

    • brad

      So you want a thought experiment unrelated to reality, with no bearing on it.
      Seems the point of the discussion is things which actually are.

      • MDrew

        I mean, it’s an option.

    • djw

      Do we (you) wish there to be a thing, let’s say an institution, in this country called “intercollegiate athletics”? Starting from scratch, aiming for something roughly ideal or at least that we can affirm, what do we (you) think that thing should be? What do we (you) think it should be like?

      I’m indifferent to the first question. To the second question, it should look like whatever the relevant stakeholders want it to look like, with two limiting conditions: don’t use its existence to promote exploitation and injustice, and don’t design it in such a way that interferes with the core purposes of Colleges and Universities. The first is much more important, obviously.

      • ThrottleJockey

        I’m indifferent to the first question.

        People vary, but a sentiment I’ve picked up here and on other lefty blogs is an indifference to college athletics, and especially an indifference to Div I college athletics. Obviously there are a lot of people here who very much enjoy college sports, so let it be said that I’m painting with a broad brush, but the presence of this indifferent attitude makes me suspicious that the wished for policy would do anything to enhance college sports. At my college lots of elitist assholes (again not saying that’s the type of people here) exhibited this very same indifference toward athletics (and athletes) and so I always have trouble getting past my skepticism of these people.

        • djw

          To be clear, my indifference is at a different level than you’re talking about. Against my better judgment, I find myself an enthusiastic and emotionally committed fan. But that’s not a justification for its existence, especially not in its present, ethically objectionable, form.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          seems to me thinking the very foundation of a multimillion dollar business should be compensated in real money for their efforts is very opposite of indifferent

        • Brien Jackson

          1. Trollolololololol

          2. Who gives a shit if it “enhances” college sports or not?

        • I have no particular interest in spectator (and a lot of participatory) athletics as a leisure or professional activity for myself.

          I still care about athletes being treated properly.

          Is there even a tension between these two? I’m vegetarian but care quite a lot about worker safety and wages in meat packing plants. I don’t drive a car but want autoworkers to get a fair shake.

        • Scott Lemieux

          hat the wished for policy would do anything to enhance college sports

          So what? I don’t oppose bans on compensation because I think they’re bad for college sports. I oppose them because they’re transparently indefensible. I don’t think that eliminating the bans would be bad for college sports but it’s beside the point. I think free agency has been great for professional sports, but even if I thought it made sports worse it would be crazy to oppose it.

        • efgoldman

          a sentiment I’ve picked up here and on other lefty blogs is an indifference to college athletics, and especially an indifference to Div I college athletics.

          Really? Hang around here, or especially Balloon Juice, some Saturday in October and November.

  • AlanInSF

    Freedom is the default setting, unless you’re a worker.

  • Barry_D

    MDrew: “So if the organization isn’t profitable, the workers won’t get paid. Just they way we treat all other workers.

    Oh, sorry, the definition is, if you’re not working for a profitabl enterprise or for an organization that does not seek to and does not make a profit, then you are not a worker, and you need not be paid.”

    Stunningly f*ckingly wrong, and another data point in support of the theory that the supporters of the NCAA have nothing true or rational which they can use to support their case.

    • MDrew

      Well, yes, it’s wrong in a certain obvious way. I suspect that’s not the one you mean.

      If it’s wrong in the sense of not understanding the definition by which some collegiate athletes should get paid by their colleges (either because they are workers or not in relation to that) and perhaps(?) some not (either because they are workers or not in relation to that), then, yes that’s possible. The whole point of all of this is that I’m trying to understand exactly what it is being contended is the answer that, and it’s not exactly happening.

      • Honoré De Ballsack

        If it’s wrong in the sense of not understanding the definition by which some collegiate athletes should get paid by their colleges (either because they are workers or not in relation to that) and perhaps(?) some not (either because they are workers or not in relation to that), then, yes that’s possible. The whole point of all of this is that I’m trying to understand exactly what it is being contended is the answer that, and it’s not exactly happening.

        I salute the hardworking LGM commenters who apparently have the fortitude and/or free time to parse paragraphs like the one above. Congratluations, MDrew– you are, by far, the most stylistically impenetrable writer I’ve ever read.

        • MDrew

          If it helps, that phrase in the last sentence should read, “…what it is being contended is the answer to that.”

          ;)

      • Brien Jackson

        Well, for starters, it would seem pretty obvious that non-revenue generating sports could be exempted from “worker” status. Beyond that, if you wanted to contend that all athletes in revenue generating sports were workers and should be paid some amount of wage by the NCAA/conference/school, I wouldn’t argue against it.

        However, if nothing else the ban on third party payments and the marketing of the player’s own likeness is completely indefensible.

        • MDrew

          This was my bad because I didn’t reiterate it here exactly, but, while I am trying to understand the definition that’s being advanced, I am also trying to understand the reasoning that is being advanced as to why that is the right definition/rule to apply – and whether that account is the most compelling or correct one.

          • busker type

            I think it’s pretty clear to everyone reading this that you’re not trying to understand anything.

            • MDrew

              You’re right.

              Now, at a quarter to midnight CST, I am done trying for this round. And I was done at 11:22 SomethingST when you wrote that as well, I believe.

              But I did try, as people reading this can see.

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  • advocatethis

    Brien Jackson wrote:

    The draft system is collectively bargained. I don’t think it’s an efficient way of allocating talent (even in the NFL), but it’s not true that workers have no say in the matter.
    I can’t believe that you honestly believe this. In what regard are those players eligible to be drafted each year represented by the NFLPA and provided a voice in the draft process?

    • Brien Jackson

      Well, they’re not, but the NFLPA & Co. are hardly the only unions who bargain rules for new hires who are not yet members of the union and have no say over the matter.

      • advocatethis

        So, what you’re saying about my comment then, is that I did carry the ball across the 0 yard line, but the “goal” line is in fact now locate elsewhere.

        • Your complaint is about the same as saying a UFCW contract with Safeway is illegitimate because people who don’t work there yet didn’t have a say in the negotiations.

          • advocatethis

            Well, my complaint would be the same as saying that if UFCW had agreed with all grocery stores that anybody wanting to work at any grocery store could only work at the one store that a consortium of grocery stores had agreed they could work at. That’s not how it works in any line of work other than professional athletics, though. So why are college athletes unique that they should be uniquely restricted in for whom they can ply their trade? Do other unions negotiate restrictions remotely similar to this on how and where people entering the trade will work?

            • Your reply tells me that you have no idea how union negotiations and contracts work.

              • advocatethis

                So, accounting for the fact that I am as dumb as a stump, please provide an example that is as restrictive on labor entering a profession as sports drafts are.

                • As JL points out below, medical residencies are pretty close. You go through the matching process are pretty much have to take what you get. It’s a prerequisite for moving forward.

        • Brien Jackson

          Who said that? I’m not saying you’re wrong at all or that you’re not allowed to say that it’s unfair, I’m just pointing out that it’s well established across industry that unions can bargain the terms of employment of future hires who are not union members yet. This doesn’t change my contention that the draft rules are collectively bargained by labor, and thus aren’t comparable to the NCAA “amateur” rules.

  • Bitter Scribe

    OK, if you’re going to make the NCAA a minor-league NFL or NBA, you’ll have to go whole hog, with binding contracts, salary caps, arbitration–the whole megillah. Otherwise, the colleges with the most cash to throw around will always win everything. Oh, and tell the kids not to bother coming to class, either.

    It’ll basically be the end of college sports as it is currently known, but who cares?

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      at least it would be honest. why are we supposed to be sentimental about a system that pays athletic directors, coaches, et al many millions of dollars and serves as a minor league for another mega-bucks league- all on the backs and brains and knees of a bunch of 18-23 year-olds the majority of whom never really see much of any money

      • Tribalism. Those young men and women are wearing uniforms in colors associated with schools we once attended!

        • liberalrob

          That’s the entire reason big-time college sports exists.

    • CrunchyFrog

      Otherwise, the colleges with the most cash to throw around will always win everything.

      And this is different than the current system – how?

    • Scott Lemieux

      Otherwise, the colleges with the most cash to throw around will always win everything

      There’s already very little competitive balance in NCAA sports, far less than in the pros. Major programs have a lot more money to throw around in ways that materially improve their chances of winning; it’s just that it doesn’t go to the players for no good reason.

      and tell the kids not to bother coming to class

      This isn’t a necessary requirement of ending bans on compensation at all, but even with players not getting paid this is the de facto norm in a lot of programs anyway. It’s certainly not a good reason to engage in indefensible exploitation.

      • Brien Jackson

        I’d actually wager that letting schools freely negotiate with players would result in a far more equitable distribution of talent, especially in football.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Yeah, I think this is very plausible.

          • Denverite

            Hey, since you’re on here, Abbe has an excellent piece up at Balkinization.

            http://balkin.blogspot.com/2015/03/king-obamacare-subsidies-as-textualisms.html

            I have a very slight nit with her argument in the second-to-last paragraph, but it’s not really even consequential enough to mention.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Yeah, I read that when it first appeared last year. Great piece.

          • Brien Jackson

            Well, I’d say it’s pretty clearly implausible that Alabama would pay as much for their 20th recruit who they probably don’t expect to start until his senior, maybe junior year, as someone like Tennessee or Arkansas would for the same player to be a major contributor in year one or two.

    • busker type

      exactly. who cares? and why? please tell us what is worth defending about the current system.

    • liberalrob

      the colleges with the most cash to throw around will always win everything.

      This is why the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers have won every World Series in history.

  • CrunchyFrog

    You know, we Americans have been so brainwashed in so many ways – even when we’re aware of it we still aren’t really aware of it.

    College players play for free – supposedly in exchange for the tremendous value of a “free” college education, but we know that in the money sports of men’s basketball and football the most competitive sporting schools have poor graduation rates, with rare exceptions – and those who graduate usually do so with a 2.0 or less GPA in a major in Communications or some other worthless degree (or with no learning and an artificially inflated GPA). But at least they are free to choose the school.

    Pro players are subject to a “draft” and are stuck with one team as an indentured servant for years – in the case of the NFL until after the span of an average NFL career – and in all cases to artificially limited salaries.

    And we Americans just accept this as normal. Someone up thread argued “well, at least the pro contracts are collectively bargained”. My ass. In such negotiations the veterans vote to keep their benefits and screw future rookies. Only proper labor law can prevent this kind of shit.

    The funny thing is that you won’t find “drafts” like this in other places. Too weird. But we’ve been so brainwashed that we just accept that pro athletes in team sports can’t have freedom of choice or contract negotiation.

    • I’m in favor of B-school gads being subject to a nationwide draft. A lucky few will end up at Ernst & Young with six-figure salaries on day one. Most will end up managing franchise businesses with 0.5% profit margins.

      A few years of this will destroy the B-school mystique, and the group of geniuses who created the NCAA in its current form will fade away.

      /fantasy

      • Lee Rudolph

        Not a bad start, but needs more disabling injuries and concussive brain damage!!!

        • Have you ever been in a bar when the MBAs are performing mating rituals? Disabling injures and concussive brain damage everywhere.

          • sparks

            And with some of the MBAs I knew, also a hell of a good start on cirrhosis of the liver.

      • efgoldman

        I’m in favor of B-school gads being subject to a nationwide draft.

        Law schools, also too.
        And don’t med schools do something like it, in the way internships and residencies are assigned? Some grads end up at Mass General, some at Hillbilly Ozarks Regional.

        • JL

          Yes, with the medical education system you end up with exactly one choice of residency, and it may not be in the field that you were hoping for. You get to rank preferences, though, so you aren’t just assigned a field and location completely at random.

          I’m not sure if this is true with residencies, but once you get beyond that Hillbilly Ozarks Regional might actually pay more than Mass General. My understanding is that medicine is one of those fields where salaries are lower in places widely considered desirable, and higher in high-need areas.

  • Pseudonym

    Thanks, Scott, the check is in the mail!

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