What I’ve observed with these discussions about player compensation is that much of it is driven on one side by what I’ve referred to as the romance of amateurism. People don’t like the idea of players getting paid because it interferes with their vision of participation purely for the love of the sport.
Believe it or not, I don’t have a problem with that. I stopped feeling that way a few years ago, but I can respect the position. Where my respect stops is at the point where some try to dress up their emotional investment in the notion with economic arguments that make little sense. And where my anger starts is with the NCAA’s obvious and cynical milking of that romance.
The NCAA has responded that fans don’t want college sports to go pro. As NCAA President Mark Emmert recently put it, “one of the biggest reasons fans like college sports is that they believe the athletes are really students who play for a love of the sport.”
But, could there be something else in play that explains why folks don’t want student-athletes getting paid? Um… you tell me.
Could racial prejudice also affect attitudes toward paying college athletes? There are good reasons to believe that it could.
According to NCAA data from 2014, blacks constitute the majority of players in college football and basketball, the two sports that most people think of when they think of college athletics. Given this reality, it would be strange if questions about paying college athletes did not conjure up images of young black men in the minds of survey respondents.
To find out whether racial prejudice influences white opinion on paying college athletes, we conducted a survey of opinions on “pay for play” policies using the 2014 CCES.
In a statistical analysis that controlled for a host of other influences, we found this: Negative racial views about blacks were the single most important predictor of white opposition to paying college athletes.
The more negatively a white respondent felt about blacks, the more they opposed paying college athletes.
Before your knee begins instinctively jerking in response, consider such comments as this…
“I don’t think paying all college athletes is great,” said Cowherd. “Not every college is loaded, and most 19-year-olds [are] gonna spend it – and let’s be honest, they’re gonna spend it on weed and kicks! And spare me the ‘they’re being extorted’ thing. Listen, 90 percent of these college guys are gonna spend it on tats, weed, kicks, Xbox’s, beer and swag. They are, get over it!”
… and tell me you can’t detect even the faintest whiff of prejudice there. And yes, Cowherd is a major ass, but he’s hardly alone in that department.
Read the linked piece in its entirety and draw your own conclusions.