The NCAA is going to make $900 million off of the NCAA tournament this year. There is no question that this, not anything done by football, is the premier event in college sports. The money that comes in is almost incomprehensible as the entire United States focuses on basketball for the entire opening weekend. This is what pulls in the eyeballs. When things make money, you take care of the people who do them. That’s why Ryan Reynolds is rich enough to buy Wrexham AFC, why Bill Gates gives away more than we can imagine, and why LeBron James is a ubiquitous presence moving product.
Unless, of course, you are the NCAA. According to the reports coming out of the Indianapolis area this week, players are being fed fast food, given free deodorant as a perk, provided with puzzles in the rooms they must isolate, and, on occasion, being given warm breakfast foods that have long since gone cold and no utensils to eat that with. In essence, college age kids are being shut in a hotel and given conditions that would make the average middle aged traveler lodge an endless series of complaints and demands to talk to the manager.
That’s not an option for the basketball players, though, so they have taken to Twitter. Geo Baker, pictured above, has led the charge.
The NCAA OWNS my name image and likeness. Someone on music scholarship can profit from an album. Someone on academic scholarship can have a tutor service. For ppl who say “an athletic scholarship is enough.” Anything less than equal rights is never enough. I am #NotNCAAProperty— Geo Baker (@Geo_Baker_1) March 17, 2021
The hashtag comes from the NIL agreement (name, image, likeness) that would allow players to capitalize on their own beings and their work. The NCAA, of course, is slowing this down because it will cut into profit margins. The DOJ is supporting the plaintiffs in a similar lawsuit that will go before the Supreme Court. The NCAA, of course, is the deep pocket defendant on that.
Simply put, the NCAA is making absurd money off the backs of people they refuse to recompense even slightly. Now, with teams not able to make their own arrangements and isolated in the places the NCAA says they must, the organization is not even creating decent living conditions. According to Jay Bilas, “It’s become clear to even the biggest NCAA apologist that we are playing this tournament primarily to deliver content to media rights partners. That’s what this season was about.” With that as the background, the NCAA could surely afford to care for the people making that happen.
But of course they don’t. And please, spare us all the “the scholarship is worth it” argument. It isn’t. These kids are a commodity that the NCAA continues to treat like garbage because they legally can. If Baker and his cohort follow through on their intimation of a boycott, the NCAA will have brought it upon themselves and will richly deserve it. The remoras that are Jon Rothstein and Doug Gottlieb will adhere to the NCAA by the lips as long as they can. That just makes them wrong as well.