The NCAA is big business for everybody but Black players—but you knew that already because like millions of other accomplished individuals, you read The Root.
But what you probably didn’t know is how extensively the NCAA’s ban on profit-sharing with student-athletes—enacted by a 1957 court ruling that denied the widow of college athlete Ray Dennison workers’ compensation death benefits after he was killed during a collegiate football game—allows affluent white students to benefit from the exploitation of their lower-income Black peers.
According to the Washington Post, the National Bureau of Economic Research examined the revenue and expense data of all 65 athletic programs in the NCAA’s Power Five conferences from 2006 to 2019, as well as the team rosters across every sport, players’ race and ethnicity, and their hometowns.
Here’s what the study found, per the Post:
The data yielded a number of preliminary findings. First, the revenue generated by those athletic departments nearly doubled during the study period, from $4.4 billion to $8.5 billion. Nearly 60 percent of that revenue was generated by football and basketball teams, much of it derived from the increasingly lucrative sale of broadcast rights to major television networks.
Over the study period, the average annual salary of football coaching staffs nearly doubled, from $4.8 million to $9.8 million. Non-coaching administrative salaries nearly doubled as well. But financial support for the athletes—primarily tuition aid, room and board—grew 47 percent.
But aside from making it rain on coaches and administrators, schools make significant investments in providing their teams with extravagant facilities so that student-athletes can continue to generate billions of dollars free of charge. There’s also one of the worst-kept secrets in college sports: The exorbitant profits from football and basketball programs—each comprised predominantly by Black players (60 percent)—subsidize countless “nonrevenue” sports like tennis or sailing—which aren’t comprised predominantly by Black players (11 percent).
And these Black players keeping all the lights on come from neighborhoods with higher rates of poverty than their white counterparts. Or as Craig Garthwaite, lead author of the study put it, “money is generated from one group that has traditionally been disadvantaged in society and it flows to a group that has not been disadvantaged.”
“We’re the first to empirically document the regressive nature of [this] in a systematic way,” Garthwaite told the Post. “The subsidy that predominantly Black male athletes provide to others is a missing feature when we talk about equity in college athletics.”
But when has America generating billions of dollars from the unpaid labor of Black folks ever been a surprise?
“There’s so much money and the one group that really has not seen any real increase in benefits are the players who are risking their health and safety to play the sports,” Garthwaite said. “It’s morally bankrupt.”
In October, the NCAA finally voted in favor of allowing student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness. But until that check clears, it’s nothing but lip service—just like that 40 acres and mule we’re still waiting on.