Remember the controversy created by allegations that Johnny Manziel profited from the sale of his autograph? I do. Pundits and the public alike were calling for Manziel’s head. The amount of profane comments I read describing his character made me pause and reflect.
Let’s assume Johnny Football did sell his autographs. Is this really a heinous act? The Texas A&M football program, in 2012, generated million of dollars. How much profit did Heisman winner Johnny Manziel see of the millions his talent helped generate? Not much.
Encouraged by the NCAA, everyone in authority positions at college football programs has the “right” to make as much money as possible exploiting the young men that play the game. But, for no moral principal, they claim it is illicit for the players to make even a cent more off their own efforts than their scholarships. A young man doing so is decried by the press as a miscreant bordering on a criminal. This is ridiculous!
Your autograph is your property. How, in the land of the free, has it come to pass that we have been so trained to think that a perfectly moral act – the exchange of your property for compensation- has become so heinous? How is it that we regard colleges keeping all those millions for themselves as perfectly moral, but redistributing any of it to the players as something immoral? We must conclude that college sports may actually exist purely for profit, as does the NFL.
College football is as much a big business as any other one. It is not a manifestation of pure principles any more. Money is at its core. Why should the players not get paid? Why should they be treated as indentured servants? They shouldn’t! They should get their equitable share. Period! College athletes risk their health in so many ways for the undeniable result that the billions they generate ultimately come to be controlled by an elite group: NCAA executives, university presidents, athletic directors and coaches. They employ righteous-sounding rhetoric – like “They’re amateurs!” or “They’re there to get an education” – to keep the money flowing into their pockets.
Walter Byers, former CEO of the NCAA from 1951 to 1988, quit because he saw that it had become nothing but a corrupt scheme for profit. He wrote in his book Unsportsmanlike Conduct: the Exploitation of College Athletics:
“…the NCAA… is preoccupied with tightening a few loose bolts in a worn machine, firmly committed to the neoplantation belief that the enormous proceeds from college games belong to the overseers (the administrators) and supervisors (coaches). The plantation workers performing in the arena may receive only those benefits authorized by the overseers. This system is so biased against human nature and simple fairness in light of today’s high dollar, commercialized college marketplaces…”
Change will soon occur; it is inevitable. So, thank you Johnny Football for putting this crack in the dam by selling your autograph; after all it is your God-given talent and your property.
(Charles Torello is a former college academics proctor and All-American football player at Rice University. Read his blog at www.CharlesTorello.wordpress.com)