I think it’s time for college athletes to get off the plantation. The Supreme Court agrees.
Three words: It’s about time. Not just because the NCAA’s century-old business model has grown increasingly exploitative as the money from television contracts and other revenue sources has made college sports into a multibillion-dollar business, but also because college sports, especially lucrative basketball and football, are dominated by Black athletes. In short, the court’s unanimous ruling in National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston did more than expose the NCAA’s questionable business practices. For anyone who was paying attention, the ruling also laid bare the NCAA’s dependence on structural racism.
Black athletes account for 46% of the players in the Power 5 conferences of the Football Bowl Subdivision—the top level of college football. When you include the other conferences outside the Power 5, the percentage of Black athletes jumps to 52. The numbers are equally skewed in basketball, where more than 56% of Division I male players in 2020 were Black, as were 46% of Division I female players.
Given that America was built with the unpaid labor of Black people, this should not come as a surprise. But, just in case you don’t see shades of Gone With The Wind in the crumbling of the NCAA’s plantation-like system, consider the words of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who cited a brief by a group of African American anti-trust lawyers in writing a concurring opinion on the case.