During a recent pre-Final Four news conference, University of Kentucky basketball head coach John Calipari commented on the highly contentious topics of one-and-done athletes and pay for play. Here are two excerpts that stood out as problematic. Per Yahoo! Sports,
“It’s changed,” said one-and-done maestro Calipari. “It’s changed for all of us. It’s changed from Internet to draft lists to the gazillions in the NBA. It’s all that stuff that’s made this different, our jobs different. I will tell you, we have universities here around this country, some of the top, that encourage genius, kids to move on and do their things if they stayed one or two years. As a matter of fact, they’ll invest in them financially and tell them, ‘If it doesn’t go, you can come back and your position will always be there.’ I don’t understand why it’s a problem if it’s the same with basketball players.
“These kids have a genius. Our jobs are to help them grow on and off the court, to help them become better men, to be prepared for society, yet they’re chasing a dream and they have a genius. Their genius isn’t just athleticism or size. There’s no way you can be special at this sport unless you have the right kind of mind.
No Calipari, their “genius” is just athleticism or size. We’re talking about undeveloped and immature 19 and 20-year-old males. Not men, males. Unlike the gifted scholars mentioned, the majority of basketball players who advance to the pros, after one year in college, don’t possess a “genius” level of intellect that will also sustain them should they suffer a career-threatening injury or simply not reach their full potential. How many athletes go pro, have their careers cut short, and are absolutely lost in the real world? They lack financial literacy because they weren’t taught the ins and outs of business management. They have no education or skill set beyond sports that will assist in making a successful transition from the insulated life they’re accustomed into the general population. These “student-athletes” couldn’t be more unprepared for society because the dream they’re chasing require hours of sports related activities on par with a full-time job. Studying is secondary as the majority of athletes are focused on remaining eligible for a single season so they can cash in at the pro level. It’s irresponsible for Calipari, who touts himself as a father figure to his players, to pretend otherwise.
Describing the gift that these kids possess as “genius”, and yet not advocate for them to get paid is hypocritical, to say the least. How can Calipari defend his players’ decision to enter the NBA Draft after one year of college so they can be compensated for their “genius,” but not push for them to be paid on the collegiate level, where they’re displaying that same level of “genius?” Where’s the logic in that? Furthermore, this is America, people. A capitalistic society where everyone’s goal is to unleash their “genius” in exchange for pay. Often you’ll hear successful people say, I love my job so much I’d do it for free, but newsflash: no one really means it. Just this week, Jay-Z and his multi-millionaire music artist friends announced the launch of a new music streaming site, Tidal. Due to the evolving nature of how music is consumed, music artists aren’t making as much money as they once did; while sites like Pandora and Spotify continue to profit. Madonna, Beyonce, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, and so many more joined together to fight back. They’re asking music lovers to pay a minimum of $10 per month to support their artistry and help them protect their magic in exchange for exclusive high quality music experiences unique to Tidal. As entertainers, they have the right to be compensated for their gift, especially when others are profiting. I dig it. I won’t be buying it, but I dig it because what’s fair is fair.
Calipari, who’s due to make more than $6 million this season, went on to praise the NCAA for finally changing the food policy. “We now can feed our kids,” he said, as if covering meals is truly worth celebrating in 2015. Calipari also chided the NCAA for not covering insurance for all athletes, before returning to the defense of the NCAA’s non-pay for play model. “It’s a slow-moving boat. But for 40 years, this is the way it is, we’re not changing,” he added.
So we’re citing tradition as the reason for the NCAA’s resistance to change? We should continue to do things a certain way simply because we have? Not only is that a dense and myopic viewpoint that hinders progress, but it’s also conveniently one-sided. Forty years ago we also didn’t have TV networks dedicated to sports conferences, or in the University of Texas’s case, a school. In 2014, ESPN launched the SEC Network in 75 million homes spanning 11 states within SEC territory, including Kentucky. In the first year, the new venture exceeded projections and turned a profit. While not unprecedented, the publicized struggles experienced by Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network are more common in the cable industry. The rapid success of the SEC Network has netted an additional $5 million for each SEC school; bumping every school’s total payout to an estimated $26 million. Moral of the story? Selling the “genius” of “amateur athletes” is big business, and it’s even bigger business when you’re feeding fewer mouths with a larger pie.
Not only is it unfair and unethical to launch a TV network with a business model solely based on the “genius” of “student-athletes,” and cutting them out of the profit; but it’s also a joke for the highest paid college basketball coach to acknowledge the “genius” of these athletes in one breath, and then turn around and rationalize why every athlete doesn’t deserve to be compensated for their contributions in the next.