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Sports and symbolic politics

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A lot of people were surprised if not shocked by this tweet from North Carolina senator Richard Burr, regarding the NCAA’s announcement that it was considering allowing college athletes to get paid a little something over the table:


For example, Kevin Kruse responded, “Raising taxes AND hurting college college athletes. Are you sure you’re a Republican in North Carolina?” (College basketball is a very big deal in that state).

A bunch of conservative commentators were also displeased:

More generally, it’s very difficult to come up with any even semi-coherent rationale for forbidding the relative handful of college athletes — mostly star football and basketball players — who would make any money from this reform from making that money, given that we’re talking about a multi-billion dollar industry whose player-generated profits allow coaches and administrators to be paid seven and even eight-figure salaries (Big 10 commissioner Jim Delaney was just paid $20 million in bonuses for having negotiated some sweet TV deals for the conference).

What, after all, is the difference between allowing college athletes to make some side money from their association with a college and allowing, say, Columbia law students from getting paid $4,000 per week in the summer by law firms because of their association with Columbia’s law school, etc. etc?

And, as the tweets from French and Shapiro illustrate, Burr’s proposal flies in the face of all sorts of basic right-wing dogma about the inviolate sanctity of the free market, the endless rapaciousness of the government in its quest to squeeze yet more tax dollars out of over-burdened Americans, and so forth.

So what’s going on here?

You know how it infuriates right wingers that the automatic response of “social justice warriors” to this sort of question is always some sort of claim about racism? Why is that Leon?

Maybe it’s because, in the minds of economically anxious diner denizens all across the heartland, the modal football or basketball star is, shall we say, getting a bit uppity these days:

So yeah, the correct answer in these situations pretty much always is: racism.

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