That was a line in the comments last night that cracked me up.
… The NCAA propounds a theory of amateur athletics — the players are student-athletes, in it for the love of the game — that conveniently happens to divert the hundreds of millions of dollars college sports generate to…the NCAA. The players, from the walk-on at the end of the bench to the celebrated one-and-done prospect spending a short season in college before entering the NBA draft, are technically amateurs. Their reimbursement is twofold: the chance to play, and the chance to be a college student. But the NBA-bound, and the more tragic cases of those who think they are NBA-bound, have no interest in being college students. Though everyone knows the amateurism doctrine is a sham, the NCAA clings to a Frank Merriwell model of part-time athletes balancing homework and practice because it means more money for the NCAA.
But top players, aware they are worth more than an often-meaningless scholarship, will inevitably endeavor to capitalize on their own value. “Wishing away young players’ market value doesn’t change the fact that it exists,” writes The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks. Thus the NCAA, in its hubristic attempt to squash market forces, has created a threat to its own continued dominance of college sports: an enormous black market for prospects’ services.
If any orthodox Marxists are reading this (an unlikely proposition), they’re salivating: Wealthy capitalists are capturing all of the value a player generates. But there’s a more fundamental principle at stake that should convince conservatives to oppose the amateurism arrangement: a belief in free markets. Though no government is denying these players their rights, college football and basketball have a near-monopoly as farm leagues for the NFL and NBA. There is no viable alternative for most players looking to sell their labor, but if they take money, they will be declared ineligible, their schools punished, and their teams’ results vacated. As David French points out, a college athlete who plays by the rules will “spend his entire academic career as one of the poorest students on a wealthy, upper-middle-class campus, all during a time when he might actually be achieving his peak earning potential in a truly free market.” When A.J. Green, a talented Georgia football player, sold hisown jersey, he was suspended for four games; NFL scouts deemed him to have “character flaws,” which might have cost a lesser player spots in the draft and millions of dollars. [Emphasis added.]
As the saying goes, when they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. That’s not socialism. It’s cynicism. It’s also accurate.