The campaign to generate salaries for college athletes is a standard rant that always accompanies the storied brackets of the annual NCAA March Madness basketball tournament—and the heat just got turned up on the issue, now that a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Northwestern University student-athletes can unionize.
The debate about poor, lowly servants on the court sweating their way into Final Four legend is becoming as commonplace as trash talk over players’ on-court picks. Advocates for athlete pay want to convince viewers that salaried point guards somehow level the playing field in an industry that raked in more than $1 billion in TV ad revenue last year.
And recent gripes stem from the glaring reality that, as the University of Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Race in Equity and Education points out, black athletes account for a disproportionate share of football and basketball players in the top college conferences, 64 percent and 57 percent respectively, while they're only 3 percent of the student population. With such high numbers, many commentators and thought leaders jump to the conclusion that a coordinated system of neo-chattel slavery is in full effect.