Over the years, Black college athletes, particularly males, have often faced increased stereotyping and given unappealing labels within their institutions. Based on research, Black students are usually perceived as academically inferior and athletically superior to their white counterparts. It can be noted that most of the Black student-athletes are from single-parent families and low socioeconomic backgrounds, with most of them being first-generation college students from their households. Challenges, including poverty and poor schooling, significantly impact the general college experience among Black student-athletes, leaving them to feel isolated and exploited. At the heart of the diversity, ethnicity, and inequality issue is the National Collegial Athletics Association’s (NCAA) longstanding policy that inhibits profit-sharing with college athletes. The policy provides a loophole for wealthy White students to profit from the work of the poor college athletes, leaving them to suffer poor mental state and low-quality education and entrenching the already high poverty levels for Black college athletes and their families. Thus, the non-profit sharing policy with college athletes should be banned to allow Black students to benefit from the labor.
The NCAA has a policy prohibiting college athletes from compensation for labor. This policy is based on the student-athlete concept, where the association maintains that the policy helps the NCAA fight against compensation insurance claims for injured athletes (Ingraham, 2020). It can be noted that the association faced a court case in the 1950s, where Ray Dennison’s widow sought worker’s compensation after the player died during a football match. The NCAA maintained that Dennison was ineligible for the benefits as he was a student-athlete and not a university staff. With the court agreeing with the institution, research indicates that the NCAA has used it as the cornerstone of its defense against profit-sharing among college athletes. Nevertheless, modern college sports is a high profit-making enterprise, with some athletic departments having around $100 million budgets (Ingraham, 2020). Again, the college athletic departments generate billions of dollars in revenue, most of which comes from basketball and football teams. With such a massive revenue, student risking their health and safety have not benefited.
Additionally, the NCAA’s policy has seen massive revenue from basketball and football programs channeled into building lavish team facilities and administrator and coach salaries. According to Ingraham (2020), millions of dollars generated from these sports go to nonrevenue sports, including sailing, tennis, and crew. These sporting activities do not generate much revenue and often depend on football and basketball for financial sustainability. However, it is worth noting that these nonrevenue sports attract White students from wealthy neighborhoods compared to football and basketball players. Ingraham (2020) reports that Black students compose around 60% of the basketball and football rosters and only 11% in the other sports. Again, basketball and football players hail from regions with higher poverty and low-income rates than in other games. While Black athletes generate more revenue, White athletes and coaches profit from their labor (Singer, 2009). Black students receive no additional compensation for the revenue they help the athletic departments generate. It leaves them languishing in poverty while facing significant hardships, especially health.
The lack of proper compensation for Black college athletes has increased the stereotype rate against them and given them significant problems pursuing mental health services. While athletic departments play a significant role in advancing a positive atmosphere for student-athletes, most do not hire mental health experts (Howe, 2020). With the NCAA inhibiting profit sharing and high compensation among student-athletes, enormous barriers exist to their ability to access quality mental health services. Some of the most common obstacles include attitudes towards ethnicity and race, negative encounters with mental health experts, stigma, and the assumption that a problem does not exist. Wilkerson et al. (2020) contend that the association’s lack of concern for the mental health of Black students has left them feeling weak. Most Black college athletes believe they must regularly be prepared for games regardless of their emotional status. They believe they must be mentally strong or perceived as weak if they seek mental health services.
The NCAA policy has also increased the rate of stigma against Black student-athletes. With these students expected to be tough, they experience a stigma that keeps them from seeking mental health services. For instance, Black male Division I football student-athletes face enormous stigmas in their pursuit of mental health resources (Wilkerson et al., 2020). It can also be said that society and the athletic department at various institutions have become the most significant source of stigmas against Black student-athletes. May players are scared of pursuing professional assistance since they are afraid of how they might be perceived. At the same time, the argument that student-athletes should not receive benefits and compensation has forced some players to keep their mental health struggles secret, while coaches do not bother to identify problems among players, especially Black ones (Wilkerson et al., 2020). Players often try to show the coaches their resolve and strength, which impedes them from seeking mental health services. The NCAA’s nonprofit sharing policy is to blame because Black student-athletes do not have sufficient resources to seek private mental care.
There has been a complex relationship between predominantly white colleges and universities and Black student-athletes. Long-standing political, social, cultural, and economic coercion exists in this relationship among the big-time college sports. Kalman-Lamb et al. (2021) report that the NCAA sport was primarily constructed along the foundations of racial inequalities in the U.S. and the higher education system. The NCAA’s non-profit sharing policy sought and has since entrenched the white majority power, making them superior in colleges to their Black counterparts. For instance, U.S. racial capitalism permeated the higher education structure since the 1600s, with white-dominated state parliaments reforming and sustaining racial control over universities (Kalman-Lamb et al., 2021). At the same time, university sports departments and White coaches and officials generate enormous revenues through sports. Still, the money does not benefit Black athletes, who only receive attendance scholarship costs. These players do not even receive health insurance in most instances. The money goes to white people, who disproportionately control the universities’ athletic activities, including most presidents, chancellors, directors, and head coaches. Denying Black student-athletes compensation is a significant barrier to their college welfare, especially when they generate the most revenue.
Moreover, the decision among Black students to accept the scholarship and engage in big-time college sports is rooted in structural coercion entrenched by the discriminatory NCAA policy. The association has been widely accused of exploiting athletes by targeting those from poor backgrounds and families who cannot afford primary college education (Black, 2021). The association has also enforced unnecessary and unfair rules to maintain its control over athletes’ freedom through free meals or services meant for professional athletes. Kalman-Lamb et al. (2021) report that structural coercion entails the economic and social circumstances shaping and influencing Black families’ decisions. Racial capitalism has brought a significant gap in economic, cultural, and social conditions in America’s history, with increased inequalities in accessing higher education and well-paying jobs. It can be noted that Black families possess below 15% of the white families’ wealth (Kalman-Lamb et al., 2021). Again, only 28% of Black Americans aged between 25 and 29 have acquired a bachelor’s degree and 36% an associate degree, about 45% and 56% of Whites have these qualifications, exposing the massive inequality existing in the country’s higher education system (Kalman-Lamb et al., 2021). With these differences, college sport participation scholarships have become more of a necessity than a choice for Black students.
After admission, Black athletes face status coercion. It is essential to note that status coercion illustrates various ways the athletic departments exercise power over student-athletes by controlling their chances to illustrate their capabilities, hoping to become accomplished professionals (Silva et al., 2021). For instance, coaches have exceptional power to control whether an athlete plays, allowing them to regulate their utterances and behavior through surveillance and discipline (Kalman-Lamb et al., 2021). These practices curtail the freedom of college athletes, especially Black players. The NCAA has not addressed structural and status coercion since college athletes must continue within the good graces of such programs. For example, a football star is likelier to win a sponsorship if they play weekly. Again, the association has created a new labor environment where players are forced to pursue income from private organizations. Paying athletes in the subsidized education form is insufficient compensation for their labor. However, if subsidizing education amounts to compensation, compromising the same results in wage theft. Specifically, it is challenging for Black players as they are made to feel like they never belong. They are viewed as trouble and a nuisance in the universities. The nature of the scholarships makes it challenging for Black students to focus on education since they get up early and are discouraged from attending classes that clash with their games and training. As a result, Black student-athletes remain marginalized, yet they help university and college sports departments generate massive revenues.
While the NCAA’s non-profit sharing policy has brought extreme inequalities against Black college student-athletes, allowing students to draw financial benefits and compensation from their images, names, and likeness has a massive impact. Allowing profit sharing among players might empower player agents and make them exploit unsuspecting players of their dues (Sprung, 2021). For instance, agents take the lead in managing a team of professionals managing the player’s career. Lack of cooperation and coordination between the agent, player, and their families might lead to massive financial losses. Again, players would have to incur agent costs. Agents usually take around 20% commission from the marketing contracts secured. As a result, shifting the policy would empower agents and limit the players’ ability to benefit from financial compensation.
Overall, there is a need to change or adjust the NCAA’s non-profit sharing policy due to its impact on Black student-athletes. This policy has brought massive racial disparities in college sports. Specifically, the policy inhibits Black student-athletes from benefiting from their labor and instead advantages their White counterparts who engage in sports that generate less revenue. It also compromises the ability of Black athletes to seek mental health services. With the serotype labeled against Black players, including the belief that they should be solid and ready for games, they rarely seek mental health help. The policy has also increased the stigma against these players. The NCAA also uses the policy to exploit Black student-athletes, especially with scholarship programs and meals meant to ensure that they continue serving universities and generating revenues for sports departments. While proponents argue that allowing students to profit from college sports would empower agents to exploit student-athletes, the policy has ensured that the NCAA benefits economically disadvantaged students from poor backgrounds. Creating Black student empowerment organizations or advocacy groups can help bring fairness by providing Black athletes a platform to advance their freedom (Denny, 2020). Students can advocate for their rights through such groups and push for fairness in benefits and compensation. The result will be an improved sports department in colleges and universities. Finally, universities and colleges must advance racial equality by granting all student-athletes equal opportunities and rights.
Black, J. (2021). Stopping the Exploitation of NCAA Athletes. WRIT: Journal of First-Year Writing, 4(1), 2. https://scholarworks.bgsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1247&context=writ
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Howe, J. (2020). Manifestations of athletic identity in Black male collegiate student-athletes: Introduction of a model. Journal of Amateur Sport, 6(2), 107-135.
Ingraham, C. (2020, Sept. 7). NCAA rules allow White students and coaches to profit off labor of Black ones, study finds. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/09/07/ncaa-student-athletes-pay-equity/
Kalman-Lamb, N., Silva D., Mellis J. (2021, Sept. 7). Race, money and exploitation: why college sport is still the ‘new plantation.’ The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/sep/07/race-money-and-exploitation-why-college-sport-is-still-the-new-plantation
Silva D., Mellis J., & Kalman-Lamb, N. (2021, Aug. 30). Episode 79: Status coercion in college sport with Erin Hatton. The End of Sport. https://theendofsport.podbean.com/e/episode-79-status-coercion-in-college-sport-with-erin-hatton/
Singer, J. N. (2009). African American football athletes’ perspectives on institutional integrity in college sport. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 80(1), 102-116. 10.1080/02701367.2009.10599534
Sprung, L. D. (2021, Sep. 13). Op-ed: Here’s the financial impact of the NCAA permitting college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/13/heres-impact-of-ncaa-letting-college-athletes-profit-off-their-marketability.html
Wilkerson, T. A., Stokowski, S., Fridley, A., Dittmore, S. W., & Bell, C. A. (2020). Black Football Student-Athletes’ Perceived Barriers to Seeking Mental Health Services. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics. https://athleticdirectoru.com/articles/black-fb-student-athletes-perceived-barriers-to-seeking-mental-health-services/