If you go to college campuses in the United States, there is no question that athletes are treated like the big men on campus, in most campuses at least. The football player or basketball player walks around surrounded by girls, lives in the best kept student housing, drives the fanciest cars, goes to the best parties, has the prettiest girlfriends, and so on. If a football player compared their lives to the lives of a student who scraped by in work study, who chose between cup of ramen and regular ramen when buying groceries, and struggled to keep up scholarships and fill out grant applications to afford for college, a college player might think they lived a rather privileged life.
Unfortunately, in the system of slavery that is college athletics in the United States, while athletes are privileged house slaves, they are still slaves, and not just in a metaphorical sense. Football players and basketball players (as well as other athletes, but especially these two sports) are real revenue producers for most schools. College athletics, mostly based on those two sports, is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. College athletes, no matter how talented, and no matter how successful their programs or how much money and fame they bring to their school, are limited to scholarships. They work for free, in the hope of being drafted in the NFL and earning a big salary. Most students, even at the best schools, will not have that dream fulfilled, and will pay later in life the price of nagging injuries gained from playing a sport they loved as pampered house slaves for universities who made out like bandits on the backs of their labor.
How just is that? The majority of football and basketball players do not come from privileged backgrounds. They come from small towns in the South or Midwest, the inner cities of the Northeast or California, and they hone their abilities in sports in high school (and before) for the chance of getting a scholarship to a big-name university where they can show off their talents for the cameras of ESPN or the broadcast networks. They are immensely talented, and schools want them because of what a good sports team will bring a school in terms of fame and cold hard cash. But the players whose skills and hard work bring that money and reputation are still slaves whose efforts and labor allows the big massah (the Athletic Director and University President) to go on nice cruises, to talk about ethics while engaging in corrupt business practices (like the University of Miami football team, Ohio State, every SEC team, and one of my alma maters, USC, among many others). The athlete gets a scholarship, a lifetime of increased medical problems, and the right of being a privileged and pampered house slave in an unjust system.
And why is that the case? It’s all about the benjamins, money that is flowing into the pockets of university presidents, coaches, and athletic directors, who are paid very handsomely to oversee their slave labor, all without paying taxes. Some universities make fantastic money off of sports without having to pay any taxes on it all because of the amateurism rule. They don’t pay taxes because the players aren’t professionals, as if they were running some little league. If they paid their players, they would have to pay taxes. They are unwilling to pay Uncle Sam, so they will not pay Uncle Tom either. All the while they point their fingers at corrupt boosters while taking money from them $50,000 at a time in bowling alleys, insult students for accepting free tattoos and punishing them for taking illegal benefits like free lunches and discounts from local car dealerships while taking many times more than in money off of the labor of the young people they exploit shamelessly.
So, if you’re reading this and you are, or were, a college athlete, how do you feel about the NCAA making you slave labor so that its institutions of higher learning can make billions of dollars off of your unpaid labor. The United States had to fight a civil war to end the cruel institution of plantation slavery, but the institution is alive and well from SoCal to Tuscaloosa, much of it in public institutions of learning run by state governments, profiting from big contracts with ESPN and other networks, merchandising everything from video games to jerseys. All of which is valuable because of the efforts of those who never receive a penny, either as students or later on after they graduate. Hopefully we won’t need another civil war to rid the world of this kind of slavery. But first the people who are enslaved need to realize that as pampered as they are as college students, they are still slaves. A house slave is still a slave, after all.