Sweetness And Light
2:28 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Deford: NCAA Says Amateurism Is Alive And Well, But The Jig Is Up

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 11:48 am

Amateurism is dead, revealed so in the trial against the NCAA now in progress in Oakland, Calif., U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken presiding. Before her skeptical eyes, amateurism has been laid out naked on a courtroom slab for a jury of all fans to see that it has no beating heart.

Amateurism, Judge Wilken has been told in the case, commonly known as the O'Bannon trial, nobly protects college athletes from being exploited by evil outsiders — so the NCAA knighthood was created in order that colleges could tie up athletes all by themselves.

To this legal amateur, amateurism in college sport is in violation of the most basic antitrust laws. The claim of the NCAA is that if its athletes were paid, they would no longer be typical students.

Of course, they aren't already, and every coach and athletic director knows that. Many players in revenue sports are not really students at all. Their job is to play a sport. Only, unlike every other employee in this country, they can't get paid.

Why? Well, because they are amateurs — so everybody who makes money off them must help the NCAA protect the impoverished amateurs from being exploited.

But, as we've seen in Oakland, the jig is up.

Click on the audio link above to hear Deford's take on the issue.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And another week of testimony is under way in a class action lawsuit brought by student athletes, which will decide whether college players should be paid for the use of their likeness by the NCAA in video games and other forms of marketing. As commentary Frank Deford says the argument that not paying student athletes is protecting them from exploitation doesn't seem to be convincing anyone.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: Amateurism is dead. Revealed so in the trial against the NCAA non-progress in Oakland, California, the Honorable Claudia Wilken presiding. Before her skeptical eyes amateurism has been laid out naked on a courtroom slab through a jury of all fans to see that it has no beating hearts. Amateurism is the chivalry of our times; chivalry was on parchment a noble notion wherein the knights pledged to protect innocent womanhood. So the legend even arose that just to be on the safe side of innocence for each knight's own lady, chastity belts were supposedly fashioned. Now amateurism Judge Wilken was been told nobly protects college athletes from being exploited by evil outsiders. So the NCAA knighthood was created in order that colleges could tie up athletes all by themselves, amateurism dimes out on the myth that it was born of the highest ideals. On the contrary, it was a cynical formulation that dreamed up by the British aristocracy to keep working-class athletes from competing against the bluebloods, transferred to U.S. colleges it took on sacred overtones. Here in 1889 is Walter Camp of Yale, ever known as the father of football, explaining amateurism. "You don't want your boy hired by anyone. If he plays he plays as a gentleman and not as a professional. He plays for victory not for money, his heart is bright and he can look you in the eye as a gentleman should." Has a ring to it doesn't? Why an amateur isn't a sucker, he's a gentleman. And through the years that sirens song has conned lots of people. In the ongoing case what is commonly known as the O'Bannon trial, Judge Wilkin has certainly appeared to be dubious about the NCAA sweetheart claims. But no less a sage than Justice John Paul Stevens once warbled to sweet refrain about how the revered tradition of amateurism must be protected. Even as the Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA acted as a cartel. To this legal amateur, amateurism in college sport is in violation of the most basic antitrust laws. The claim of the NCAA is that if their athletes were paid, they would no longer be typical students. Of course they aren't already and every coach and athletic director knows that, as we've seen most recently of North Carolina, many players in revenue sports are not really students at all. Their job is to play a sport, only unlike every other employee in this country they can't get paid. Why? Well because they are amateurs. So anybody who makes money off of them must help the NCAA protect the impoverished amateurs from being exploited. But as we're seeing in Oakland the jig is up. Amateurism, like knighthood, is no longer in flower.

MONTAGNE: You can hear Frank Deford on Wednesdays and you're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.