Perhaps the inspiration of this article will be lost to some and dismissed by others as “foolishness” but, in my opinion, there seems to be little difference between the current NCAA scholarship rules and indentured servitude.
Before you dismiss the notion, let’s have a little history lesson.
In the early days of the United States, labor was needed to build the colonies. In order to fill the needs of the property owners in the New World, young men in Britain and other countries voluntarily signed an indenture document which, in their eyes, was a ticket to prosperity in the colonies.
The indenture document promised passage to the New World. Upon landing in the colonies, the indentured servants would be sold to the highest bidder. The virile young men would then enter into a contract for a period of time, normally four to five years. In exchange for being a slave to the new society, the indentured servant was given food, clothing and housing. After the four or five year period, the young man would be given his release and he would be free to pursue life and happiness in the New World.
History has several examples of young men who were said to have originally come to the colonies as indentured servants. Among those are Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Johnson.
No, they were not slaves but they were bound by a contract to work for a period of time in exchange for free passage and creature comforts. Yes, they were given the chance to learn a trade or to be an apprentice during this time with the hopes that the education they received would translate to untold riches and contentment.
The modern day NCAA requires student athletes who plan on accepting a scholarship and attending college to sign a National Letter of Intent. Once signed, the contract obligates the player to attend the school and fulfill his obligations for a period of time. After which period of time, the athlete is released to pursue life and happiness in the New World.
No, these athletes are not slaves but they are not allowed to move to another institution and they are governed rather tightly by the restrictions of the contract. Yes, they are given the chance to learn a trade or study in academia during this time with the hopes that the skills they learn will translate to untold riches and contentment.
In the early days of this country, indentured servants helped build the colonies into an industrial and financial mecca. These young men received nothing for their efforts with the possible exception of training for a trade and accommodations during their service. The businessmen reaped the rewards. The businessmen would not share the bounty with those who actually built the empire.
In the early days of college football and in the days since, contracted athletes helped build college football into a financial kingdom that is controlled by a very few. These young men received nothing for their efforts with the possible exception of training for a trade and accommodations during their service. The businessmen reaped the rewards. The businessmen would not share the bounty with the men who built the empire.
In light of the current Ed O’Bannon vs. NCAA court battle, there does seem to be a lot of similarities. The NCAA makes a lot of money off of these athletes. Yes, they do give them room and board and a chance to learn a trade but, they also capitalize off of their labor. Federal Judge Claudia Wilken is set to hear continued testimony in the coming days and weeks that asks the NCAA to, in essence, finally put an end to their form of indentured servitude and share the rewards with the young men and women who built the empire.
It’s not a lot to ask. But then again, maybe it is. It’s not just about the money it’s about honoring a tradition that started hundreds of years ago and served our forefathers well. It’s about spitting in the face of a custom that has allowed the rich to get rich and the poor to get a promise.
Maybe it is time to hock up a big ole luggie in honor of those who work to make money and build an empire for their masters.
(Ricky Saunders is a guest columnist for Stanley's Stinkers. You can reach Rick at Rick@StanleysStinkers.com)
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