Ed O’Bannon Trial: Other side
The NCAA runs a business that uses advertising and player likeness to help fund the games, practices, and tournaments that all athletes play in. This money and the very principles of amateurism are what the NCAA used to fight against the Ed O’Bannon case. As Solomon (2018) pointed out, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Wilken’s remedy to the violations which was to pay college athletes 5,000 dollars a year with more payments coming after graduation. This was a huge win for the NCAA as they now had federal backing behind their cause for amateurism. This decision however was met with despair according to the Chief Legal Officer of the NCAA Donald Remy, “While we are disappointed with this decision not to review this case, we remain pleased that the Ninth Circuit agree with us that amateurism is an essential component of college sports and that NCAA members should not be forced by the courts to provide benefits untethered to education, including providing any payments beyond the full cost of attendance” (Berkowitz 2016). The reasoning behind this decision by the ninth circuit judges Sidney R. Thomas, Jay S. Bybee and Gordon J. Quist was one that the NCAA should be happy with as well. As Judge Jay Bybee says, “The difference between offering student-athletes education-related compensation and offering them cash sums untethered to educational expenses is not minor; it is a quantum leap,” (2016). While this was just one win in court for the NCAA, the judge’s decision and further explanations help strengthen the NCAA argument around amateurism and the importance of not paying their players.
Adidas Shoe Scandal: Athlete’s Side
Last year, the NCAA was put under a microscope after the FBI opened an investigation against dozens of Division One basketball programs, assistant coaches, and Adidas employees. This is all explained in a 2018 New York Magazine article titled “College Basketball Is Literally on Trial Right Now. But Its Victims Are the Ones Being Prosecuted” by Will Leitch, where he says that Adidas employees would pay or give illegal benefits to recruits in hopes that a player would go to an Adidas sponsored school and then if that player went pro he would sign an Adidas endorsement deal. Essentially, Adidas was making illegal long term investments into athletes by using the colleges as a middle man before the athlete can go pro and sign a contract. Leith (2018) however points out that, “the strangest thing about the case is that the accused felons feel like the only honest men involved … even if they’re guilty. Heck, especially if they’re guilty. College basketball is so upside-down that trying to help a kid out will get you thrown in jail.” According to Leitch and the defendants, Adidas was simply helping out the athletes who financially needed it with hopes of them signing with their company. They were finding what they thought was a moral and fair way to pay the kids that make them billions of dollars a year which to some people seems to be much more fair than the system the athletes are in right now (2018). While the defendants were proven guilty of paying the players, the FBI didn’t directly charge them with this. According to Dan Green in a 2018 Sports Illustrated article titled, “Closing Arguments Wrap as Jury Deliberation Awaits in Complex College Basketball Trial”, Jim Gatto, Merl Code Jr., and Christian Dawkins all were charged with “conspiracy to lead the universities into fraudulent contracts”. This charge was taken and run with by the defendant’s legal team as they argued the intent of their clients was to drive good basketball players to schools while also helping them financially. Michael Schachtner, Gatto’s lead attorney, argued that Gatto thought the schools were improving as they were getting better players. Gatto saw the crime as a win for everyone (2018).
Adidas Shoe Scandal: Other Side
The corruption that has taken place within the NCAA has become telling of the heights people will go to to help make money. Rather than promoting the game of basketball, Adidas employees, athletes, and athlete’s families decided to take illegal money in exchange for the school they attended. Leitch (2018) points this out when he says, “that these companies realized that by giving a small amount of money to a college player or his family — many of whom are in desperate need of financial assistance — had long-term benefit: Give a 17-year-old kid some walking-around money now, and it might pay off big time if he hits the NBA and is looking to sign a big deal with your company.” This deal between company and athlete may have been prosperous but it jeopardizes the fabric of amateurism and the ideals of the NCAA. Rather than looking at high level athletic schools as professional sports teams, prosecutor Edward Diskant says that schools should be looked as just that: a school that houses hundreds of thousands of students and staff compared to the hundreds of athletes who would be getting paid. (Green, 2018). While this incident involves serious implications such as prison and the FBI, the focus of this case has been on the NCAA and what this means for college sports. The NCAA and leader Mark Emmert have to face the fact that corruption permeated within their organization and said in a statement in February 2018, “Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules.” (Solomon 2018). The public was and still is watching to see how the NCAA punishes the companies, players, and coaches that were involved but the fact that jail time and suspensions will be in play shows just how serious the NCAA and federal government are when it comes to protecting amateurism.
Northwestern (Player’s side)
NCAA athletes are considered amateurs, athletes, and students, but never are they employees. Kain Colter, Northwestern’s starting QB, tried to change this. He wanted to form a player’s union just like the NBA or NFL has. According to Joe Nocera and Ben Strauss from a 2016 Sports Illustrated article titled “Fate of the Union: How Northwestern Football Union Almost Came to Be” Colter told his coach that he believed it was important to change college sports. He felt the power structure marginalized players and he had deep concerns about issues such as long-term health care for college athletes. He said the team had filed and signed union cards. George Leef , in his 2017 Forbes article titled ”Federal Official Again Declares That College Football Players Can Unionize” says that this caught the attention of the National Labor Relations Board or NLRB where general counsel Richard Griffin wrote a memo stating that players could unionize and should be considered employees. Griffin’s memo does not have the force of law, but, he wrote, “It is our hope that by making our prosecutorial position known, we will assist private colleges and universities to comply with their obligations under the act.” (Leef 2017). Despite this memo not holding up in court later, Colter and others were able to make crucial steps towards changing the way college athletes are looked at. The NCAA is undergoing major changes and unionization could be one of them.
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