Louisville Cardinal basketball player Kevin Ware had a horrific leg injury during a nationally televised NCAA game Sunday.
For some reason, MSNBC’s new primetime anchor Chris Hayes, in his first All In program, decided to exploit Ware’s injury to rail against unpaid student athletes and what he called the "NCAA cartel" (video follows with transcript and extensive commentary):
CHRIS HAYES: If you happened to be among the millions of people who watched the NCAA tournament last night, you watched as Louisville Cardinal sophomore guard Kevin Ware broke his leg during an awkward fall after a routine move, an injury so gruesome it left players in tears and more than a few people I spoke with feeling sick to their stomach. It’s one of those gasp moments. People who saw it in real time howled out involuntarily at their TVs. Everyone in the stadium was, according to reports, completely affected.Social media blew up, and immediately after, people wanted to know if Ware's leg was going to be okay, and if he was ever going to play basketball again.
But they also wanted to know, I wanted to know right away, if Ware isn't going to play basketball again because of this injury, is he going to be able to go back to Louisville next year, and is he going to have a scholarship? If Ware isn't going to have a scholarship, what’s going to happen to him? And even if he does keep his scholarship, who is going to pay his medical bills? Is he covered for this? And most profoundly and urgently, why again isn't Kevin Ware being paid for his labor?
That succession of logic is not an accident. In fact, the term student athlete, as Taylor Branch points out in his seminal piece in the Atlantic, was “a formulation designed, as the sports economist Andrew Zimbalist has written, to help the NCAA in its fight against workmen’s compensation insurance claims for injured football players.”
If a player was a student athlete, they were not by definition an employee and ergo not qualified for worker’s comp if they got injured on the field. Which means NCAA players are, NCAA propaganda notwithstanding, essentially the uncompensated employees of the NCAA cartel - players who literally as we saw risk their limbs on the court in order to produce a product that is immensely, immensely profitable.
How profitable? In 2010, the NCAA reached a 14 year, $10.8 billion deal with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting covering just March Madness. That’s $770 million a year. What does that mean for the uncompensated worker in this scenario, the basketball player? Well, there just happens to be a March study that provides the number.
Football and men's basketball players at top sports schools are being denied at least $6.2 billion between 2011 and 2015 under NCAA rules that prohibit them from being paid according to a study by the National College Players Association and the Drexel University sport management department.
What would the fair market value of these players be? $1.06 million over four years for the average men's basketball player not including his scholarship. The number is higher, $1.5 million, for players, basketball players at Bowl Championship Series schools.
Amazingly, and amazingly ironically, the most valuable team in all of college basketball is none other than Kevin Ware’s Louisville where the study estimates players are being denied $6.5 million each year in uncompensated labor.
Hayes’s argument was as absurd as it was untimely.
Student athletes are not unpaid. They get a free education which in some schools could represent up to $70,000 per year in tuition, room, board, and clothing.
Anyone that thinks an eighteen or nineteen year old right out of high school making up to $70,000 is unpaid doesn’t have a clue.
Beyond this is the education these student athletes get. One would think a liberal such as Hayes would be extremely pleased about people getting college degrees, especially those that couldn't possibly afford it without such scholarships.
As a parent of a former Division I athlete, I know full-well that his college experience has set him up for a tremendous career.
What people such as Hayes don’t understand is that companies all across the country aggressively recruit D-I athletes.
To succeed in such an athletic program, young men and women learn skills that easily translate to a variety of professions. They’re typically far more coachable and manageable than their non-athlete peers as well as highly-competitive and goal-oriented.
Companies in numerous fields find that such athletes quickly fit into their organizations, have a tremendous respect for authority as well as incredible work ethics, and they swiftly learn whatever they’re taught.
Six weeks after his graduation, my son got a job with an international shipping company that he in less than eighteen months parlayed into a highly-coveted medical device sales position – the youngest ever hired by the company he’s working for. He’s also made a sale quicker than anyone they’ve ever employed.
Without question, my son would say that his college experience at a D-I school played a big part in his current success.
But Hayes is obviously not concerned with how successful many of these student athletes become despite not entering professional sports. Nor does he appear concerned with all the other students that are given scholarships as a result of the profits made from men’s football and basketball.
Let’s understand that for most schools, these are the only two sports that are profitable. Most of the other programs – especially the women’s programs – produce little revenue.
As a result of the profits associated with these two sports, likely hundreds of thousands if not millions of student athletes across the country are given scholarships each and every year. Of course, the facilities at these schools also benefit as does the quality of the education provided as a result of all the dollars involved.
If none of that matters to Hayes, maybe he should consider this: all across the country, there are parents with young kids in sports like soccer, softball, track, hockey, swimming, water polo, and yes, basketball and football.
Each of them dreams of their kid getting an athletic scholarship as their child lays in bed at night hoping it will happen, and that he or she will one day go to the Olympics or even turn pro.
Not one of these people thinks if they’re fortunate enough for this to happen, the school should also have to pay them, for the obvious rewards are clearly compensation enough.
Sadly, it's not obvious to liberals such as Hayes and his ilk.