One of the well-used arguments against unionization is the Pandora’s Box. Let student-athletes form a union and it’ll be an invitation for all kinds of trouble – Title IX, taxes, you name it. Things will be worse and nobody’s thought that through! How can unionization possibly go ahead before all the peripheral questions are answered?
Brian Phillips neatly skewers that line of reasoning.
Fine, but do we have to pay squash players? And what happens to athletes’ student status if they’re also employees? Can they be fired? What if some teams vote to unionize and some teams don’t? And what about tax implications? What about Title IX?
I have no idea! One of the neat strategies you’ll see the NCAA’s defenders deploy in the wake of the Northwestern ruling is to start throwing out a million practical questions that have yet to be resolved, as though, if you can’t immediately answer all of them, they must be totally impossible to solve. “I don’t know what happens to their meal cards!” you’re supposed to cry in this situation, throwing your hands up to the heavens. “Therefore change is futile and I have no choice but to agree that the student-athlete system is the key to success in the classroom, on the field, and in life!”
But this is ludicrous. Reform of a big organization like the NCAA is inevitably going to involve a lot of tough questions. Maybe Ultimate Frisbee at Middlebury isn’t a job in the same way basketball at Kentucky is. Maybe some provision will be necessary to make sure women’s sports are treated fairly. But you know what? People build multinational corporations and reasonably functional democracies. People deal with trickier problems than college-sports revenue distribution all the time. Raising objections as though the mere existence of practical difficulties shuts down the conversation is the stalling tactic of an exhausted debater. It’s the move of someone with nothing left to defend.
Of course, it’s possible that college football is run by people who really aren’t capable of dealing with tricky problems. (Mark Emmert, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.) Even that doesn’t mean you don’t try, though.
Anyway, good stuff, nicely put.