Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dr. Boyce Watkins Talks about Paying College Athletes


Transcript for an interview with Dr. Boyce Watkins of Syracuse University about whether or not college athletes should be paid.


- What, in your opinion, are the benefits of paying collegiate 
athletes, especially those from low-income backgrounds?

I don't necessarily care if college athletes are paid.  I just think they should have labor rights.  That means that they can negotiate a fair market salary, as well as make their own endorsement deals, rather than allowing universities to make deals for them and keep all the money.  The benefit is that the athletes in poverty would be able to use their prodigious human capital to make a living for their families.

- Would you be in support of paying all college athletes, or simply the 
ones from the major revenue sports like basketball and football?

I believe that any athlete in any sport that generates revenue should have access to the free market.  We are not a socialist country, so the idea of paying everyone the same doesn't make much sense.  So, if a tennis player is going to draw a crowd and can negotiate compensation, fundamental American labor rights say that he should be given the right to do so.

- What would be your proposal for paying athletes? Would it be a large 
check, or weekly stipends?

I don't believe that it's our job to decide how they should be paid.  But nearly anything would be better than the current system, where a kid gives four years and hundreds of thousands in revenue to a school and has nothing to show for it.  I'm indifferent about when and how they get paid, but at least a trust fund would be nice, perhaps tied to their academic performance.  The problem is that the NCAA doesn't care much about academic performance, so they would never agree to such a thing.

- How would you respond to those that claim that paying athletes would 
destroy the ideals on amateurism in collegiate athletics?

The ideals are already destroyed. When you yank a kid out of class for a week to go play on a televised game across the country, there's nothing amateur about that.  Coaches typically tell their athletes to “behave like professionals.”  The NCAA earns as much money from its athletes as other professional sports leagues, so the truth is that it's not an amateur's game.

- Do you think that paying athletes would remove many of the problems 
that have plagued college sports recently with athletes receiving 
compensation, i.e. Reggie Bush and the recent allegations surrounding 
Cameron Newton?

There is no problem with Cam or Reggie being paid.  We are the ones who created a contrived set of laws and rules stating that it's illegal for these multi-million dollar assets to be compensated.  It reminds me of when it was illegal to teach a slave to read.  There's nothing wrong with a human being learning how to read, but in order to maintain control over a group of people, we designed laws to support our agenda.  If Cam and Reggie's coaches can earn millions off the name, face and brand of Cam and Reggie, then why can't their mothers?  The NCAA has sustained a system of academic and athletic apartheid, in which a certain underclass of athletes and their families are expected to contribute to the system but are not given the rewards of the system.  That ties right back to good old fashioned American racism.

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