So today I am back on Missouri. This time, though, I am referring to both the state and the university. See, a state representative recently proposed a bill to take players who do not play their sport for any reason besides health off scholarship. So this representative is upset that these Student-Athletes, so often touted as students first and excellent representatives of the school, are actually acting as students. Interesting.
On top of that, several people throw the argument that Mr. Butler, the grad student who went on a hunger strike, is from a wealthy family which proves….well, I’m not really sure if it proves anything besides that Mr. Butler is from a wealthy family. See, the protests and debates had nothing whatsoever to do with wealth, they were focused on racism throughout the institution. You can be wealthy and still be the victim of racism. Wealth does not serve to insulate entirely and at time, it does not serve to insulate at all. While it is important to understand intersections of identity, it is also important to understand that one can come from a privileged group with one identity and a sub-dominant group with another identity (please read on dominant v sub-dominant: I title groups this way because we are discussing who is in power and therefore holds the power, not who is in the majority or who is superior).
So now that we have the discussion on Mr. Butler still being affected by racism out of the way, let’s get back to the athletes. Many athletes sign contracts to play their respective sports, ones that are often run through the NCAA. On top of that, many institutions require them to take courses about meeting NCAA regulations. If there is an issue in that regard, an athlete can certainly be removed from scholarship, but since we provide due process, it must be proven typically. Now that students are expressing their first amendment rights, this individual suddenly wants to press these athletes into the roll of employee more than students. See, there is a long and complicated history between institutions and their students as far as our definition of student. There is a long history of how we define the roles and how individuals fit into them, having shifted from in loco parentis to a more modern view where students are human beings with rights, more of a contractual relationship. Scholarships provide an added layer of complicated rights and responsibilities on both sides that universities often get away with breaking, or so it seems from the modern view of many in regards to some rather infamous cases over the past few decades such as the UNC Scandal that rocked the NCAA (please note that while I specifically point out UNC here, it is far from the only institution to be caught in such scandal).
Many folks note, however, that universities have become more of a business. In that regard, student-athletes truly are more employees and a part of the brand. Let’s consider that case. This representative has essentially sunk the University of Missouri’s recruiting for some time, openly expressing that the state government does not care about you as an individual, a person, or a student at all. Their only care is about whether or not you suit up on the field. The quote from Ian Simon sums this thought up pretty well:
Do note that this is a statement from him beyond the scope of this bill, but sums the thoughts up pretty well.
See, once upon a time we as a nation invested in higher education and our students as a public good. We saw the value in educated thinkers. the NCAA, whether you agree or not, is a large part of that today. If, however, we fail at truly supporting these individuals as students first, then they do merely become an employee, to be tossed aside as soon as they no longer bring in money (ticket, jersey sales). If you are there cheering on these players on weekends, maybe even during the week, great. If, on the other hand, you ignore them as soon as they bring up concerns of safety, treatment, experience; if you believe them to be “entitled”, too political, or otherwise wrong for standing up as STUDENT-Athletes, well….
One likes to think that we as a nation are bigger than that.