Byers wrote: “Today the NCAA Presidents Commission is preoccupied with tightening a few loose bolts in a worn machine, firmly committed to the neo-plantation belief that the enormous proceeds from college games belong to the overseers (administrators) and supervisors (coaches). The plantation workers performing in the arena may only receive those benefits authorized by the overseers.”Carson Cunningham, a historian, takes umbrage with Whitlock’s comparison in “Whitlock Wrong to Compare NCAA with Slavery” by describing some abuses of slavery including the lynching of two men, William Crawford and Sam Smith, who opposing slavery, abuses that he believes renders Whitlock’s comparison offensive.
In the article, which would be laughable if it weren't so sadly off-base, Mr. Whitlock declared, "Reggie Bush is Kunta Kinte, a runaway slave." Seriously? The same Reggie Bush who is slated to make about $8 million this season, who recently won a Super Bowl, and who buys multi-million-dollar property? If so, I'm sure Kunta Kinte could relate, as well as Mr. Crawford and Mr. Smith.
Mr. Whitlock also said, "At some point, we can recognize that an investigative journalism award and individual career advancement do not justify pretending there is some honor in safeguarding the NCAA's plantation. ... Call me when the phony moralizing stops and we, the media, quit demonizing black kids for cashing in like white men." Ahh, race-baiting at its best. Bravo, Mr. Whitlock.
Cunningham does not blindly endorse the NCAA model noting
…it has some wonderful elements to go along with numerous flaws. But that's not the point. The point is that nothing about the NCAA model even remotely approaches slavery.My students who enjoy sports should read both articles and decide for themselves but I found the article informative and humorous if purposefully irreverent. I am not offended by the comparison of NCAA regulations to slavery, or the Jim Crow South just as I am not offended by comparisons of Hitler to Noriega or Franco. The latter three were dictators who were not afraid to deprive civil rights from the citizens they governed, fix elections, intimidate political rivals, or limit the press, but only one started a world war and conducted the Holocaust.
Whitlock’s triplet, slavery, the Jim Crow South, and the NCAA contract are are systems of economic exploitation even though the NCAA contract is involves less offensie. The NCAA exploits the large difference between what colleges can offer a young athlete and their next best alternative, their opportunity cost. Being grossly underpaid and attending a big name school and maintaining a chance to turn pro beats the alternative of attending a community college at the athlete’s expense or entering the low-skill job market but it isn’t fair. Athletes should receive compensation approximating the value of what they produce; in economic terms, their wages should equal the value of their marginal product. They don’t.