March Madness: Brought to You by the Teamsters


Nice to see the NLRB finally slap down the smug and dictatorial NCAA, and rule in favor of what are politely called “student-athletes.”  The NLRB has decided that scholarship players have the right to join or form a labor union.  Odd as that seems, Northwestern’s football players have made it clear that their beef wasn’t with the university, but with the NCAA, whose imperiousness and sanctimony is matched only by its hypocrisy.

The NLRB was persuaded that these players were, in fact, “employees” of the university, and as employees, were just as entitled to union representation as were the faculty, clerical workers and janitorial help.  Anyone still clinging to the belief that big-time college football is a pure and noble pursuit, one that transcends the scratch-and-claw ugliness of “commerce,” need only consider the University of Alabama.

The Crimson Tide football coach, Nick Saban, makes $7 million dollars a year.  Conversely, a University of Alabama literature professor makes what?  $100,000 a year?  We’re not so naive as to suggest that this is a “fair” comparison, that conflating football with the humanities curriculum makes sense.  Still, this is a university, is it not?  Football or no football, it’s still a place where one goes to be educated, is it not?  A place where 99% of the student body doesn’t participate in intercollegiate sports?

Not only is that wage discrepancy staggering, but when you make $7 million a year, we’re no longer talking about a college football coach, and we’re no longer talking about something as pedestrian as a bunch of “student-athletes” kicking around the old pigskin.  When you’re paid $7 million to run a football program—and when college football generates the billions of dollars in revenue it does—you’re no longer a coach.  You’re a CEO.

Which makes the NCAA’s stringent rules seem even more arbitrary and punitive.  With all this money being thrown around, with football coaches even at “minor” colleges making $500,000 a year, the NCAA still doesn’t allow scholarship athletes to receive a modest monthly stipend to pay for such practical things as laundry, cell phones, car maintenance, and walking-around money.

Even though these athletes are, undeniably, the most critical component in an enterprise that generates billions of dollars, the NCAA pretends that having their tuition paid for should be enough, and that asking for anything more than that makes them greedy bastards.  This NLRB ruling rectifies that by allowing athletes to engage in collective bargaining.  Does anyone doubt that if this were Nick Saban’s call, he would see to it that his players received a modest $200 a month in spending money?

Of course, this matter is far from settled.  Because it was a regional NLRB office that made the ruling, Northwestern University has already announced it will appeal the decision to the NLRB in Washington, D.C., and if the national NLRB fails to overturn it, they will almost certainly take it all the way to the Supreme Court.  They have no choice but to fight it.

This ruling (which applies only to private colleges and universities, and not public institutions) is simply too incendiary and potentially destabilizing not to fight.  It affects more than just Northwestern, and more than just football players.  It gives college basketball players the right to unionize as well.  Just think about that.  March Madness, brought to you by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters!  Is this a great country, or what?

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd edition), is a former union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxembourg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Imperial Myths: the Enduring Lie of the US’s Origin
Ralph Nader
The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!

Joseph G. Ramsey
Something to be Thankful For: Struggles, Seeds…and Surprises
Dan Glazebrook
Turkey Shoot: the Rage of the Impotent in Syria
Andrew Stewart
The Odious President Wilson
Colin Todhunter
Corporate Parasites And Economic Plunder: We Need A Genuine Green Revolution
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
Sam Husseini
A Thanksgiving Day Prayer