This week, 339 male student athletes from UCLA, Arizona, Purdue, Kentucky and Georgia Tech signed a petition asking the NCAA and school presidents to set aside TV revenue for more grant money. The story was reported by all major outlets, but there was little follow up. Is this by design? There has to be more to this story. When there’s a collection of people organizing and demanding justice, it ought to garner much more attention.
Who are these young men and what motivated them to take a stand? What are their goals? Do they think their goals are achievable? What’s the acceptable time frame until further action is taken? What are their plans to expand the petition? Instead, all we get from the story is silence.
After rereading it, I sent the ESPN link to sports journalist, author and social activist Dave Zirin. He’s currently on a book tour promoting the memoir of the Dr. John Carlos, a project he co-wrote with the 1968 Mexico City Olympic bronze medalist. In addition to the book tour, Dr. Carlos and Mr. Zirin are active in the Occupy USA movement that spreading across the country. They speak to crowds in the cities they are visiting. They are also helping to organize and build the movement. Dr. Carlos believes this stand for economic justice runs parallel to the the stand he took in Mexico City for human rights:
“There was no more important place to stand up in 1968 than the Olympic medal stage. And, given the
economic injustice in the world, there is no more important place today to stand up than Wall Street.”
There is a synergy between the Occupy USA movement and the petition the brave young men signed. There’s an economic injustice occurring in college sports and the student athlete is being trampled on. With conference realignment occurring for the purpose of growing TV revenues, who’s representing the student athlete? The NCAA? They are too busy giving legal cover to the school presidents and suspending athletes for free meals and train tickets to see sick siblings to care about these young people. Let’s disregard the fact that the money is made on the backs of the student athlete and every fan knows it.
Some people find the Occupy USA movement as fringe group spreading leftist propaganda. I will draw my judgements from the sociologists and historians who actually study grass root movements. What’s clear is that people are angry at what they feel is an imbalance in our society. Whether you agree with the protesters or not, we cannot deny the economic statistics and see the staggering decline of the middle class where the richest 1% have seen their wealth increase dramatically. With the US economy still suffering a backlash, what was to be expected?
The business model of major college athletics seems to be identical to what the Occupy protesters fear. It’s a society where a perpetual underclass works to creates profits to a large corporation for inadequate compensation. It’s the type of greed that would make Gordon Gekko seem reasonable. In the days, weeks, and months to come more college athletes should take a stand. There is no one speaking on their behalf. They have nothing to lose. Many of these young men believe this is out of their control and there’s nothing they can do. There is something they can do, and that’s sign the petition. Then maybe if the number is in the thousands, the mainstream media will start paying attention.