Major College Sports: A Modern Apartheid

Texas Review of Entertainment & Sports Law, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2010

MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-09

40 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2011 Last revised: 24 Oct 2011

Robert A. McCormick

Michigan State University College of Law

Amy C. McCormick

Michigan State University College of Law

Date Written: April 20, 2011

Abstract

Subjugated peoples have been used for the majority’s entertainment and profit for millennia. This pattern continues in the athletics programs of our U.S. colleges and universities today. In this article, we criticize NCAA amateurism rules which prevent college athletes from sharing in the vast revenues of college sports even though their labor is an essential component of that lucrative product. Moreover, these rules operate to disproportionately burden African Americans and to benefit European Americans.

NCAA amateurism requirements are imposed only upon athletes, not upon coaches, athletic directors, university presidents, NCAA officials, or conferences administrators. Focusing on the top-ranked football and men’s basketball teams - those programs responsible for the bulk of athletics revenue - we analyzed the racial composition of players as well as key university officials. In doing so, we found that college football and men’s basketball players at these major universities are disproportionately of African-American descent, while the beneficiaries of the lucrative enterprise of college sports - coaches and other administrators - are overwhelmingly of European-American descent. By applying only to athletes, NCAA amateurism rules thereby operate to disproportionately burden African Americans and to benefit European Americans, reserving the revenue generated by these young men only for the managers of college sports, not for the laborers. In this manner, the NCAA’s amateurism rules have an adversely and grossly disparate impact upon African Americans.

The NCAA and its member universities attempt to legitimize their regime by offering “amateurism” as a justification. Amateurism fails as a legitimizing factor, however, because major college sports are decidedly not amateur except in the pernicious sense that the persons most responsible for creating this product - the athletes themselves - are denied all but a sliver of the great wealth they create. In every other way, college sports has become a sophisticated, visible, and highly lucrative commercial enterprise. Until the members of the NCAA acknowledge the commercial nature of the college sports industry and lift the ban on payment for athletic services, then their shameful legacy will be the knowing maintenance of a system that disparately and adversely impacts African Americans.

A largely African-American work force generates extraordinary wealth by creating the product of college sports, but those players are forbidden from sharing in that wealth. Instead, NCAA amateurism rules guarantee that the money will be reserved to benefit the overwhelmingly European-American managers of the college sports industry. In essence, we conclude that this regime - in which free market principles determine compensation for coaches and all other economic beneficiaries of college sports, but not for athletes - replicates apartheid-like systems that have existed throughout history and under which members of the racial majority have exploited minorities for entertainment and profit.

Keywords: Student-athlete, Employee, NLRA, National Labor Relations Act, NCAA, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Sports, Commercialism, Amateurism, Disparate impact, African American, Exploitation, Race, Apartheid

Suggested Citation

McCormick, Robert A. and McCormick, Amy C., Major College Sports: A Modern Apartheid (April 20, 2011). Texas Review of Entertainment & Sports Law, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2010; MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-09. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1816646

Robert A. McCormick

Michigan State University College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

Amy Christian McCormick (Contact Author)

Michigan State University College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

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