The flaw in Joe Nocera’s otherwise persuasive Nov. 27 column is that he overlooks the root of the problem. Not that it is exactly elusive.
For years past, college athletes have been subjected to a form of legal discrimination that is contrary in spirit to the U.S. antitrust laws and probably a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause as well. Consider the contrast. Any student, anywhere, may freely engage in a skilled activity for pay without legal or academic reprisal.
That “student-athletes” are a striking and anomalous exception is a mockery of every canon of “free enterprise” the U.S. professes to cherish. And for what? So that colleges and universities, whose sole concern should be the education of the young, may stage spectacles for their alumni and serve as farm clubs for immensely profitable professional teams. And this misconceived farce is presided over by that fatuous toothless tiger, the NCAA, which now aspires to usurp still more the enfeebled authority of college presidents.
It is astonishing that U.S. courts have remained indifferent to this dubious system, as they long were to the contract clause that once enslaved professional baseball players to their clubs. That mockery of the constitutional system finally came to an end decades ago. Why the “student-athlete”/NCAA racket hasn’t met the same fate I can’t imagine.
Edwin M. Yoder Jr.