Letters to the Editor

Jay M. Smith: ‘Better off’ from what?

Regarding the Aug. 13 column “ College sports reform chases mirage of exploitation, profits”: J. Peder Zane said that if college football and basketball players are “exploited,” this is done only “for good purposes,” to support athletes in other sports and to inspire alumni giving. The educations of athletes in the high-profile sports may be marred by systemic abuses, but they are at least “better off” for having spent time at college, he said.

Zane has failed to notice the racial dynamic behind his “good purposes.” Star athletes on the predominantly black basketball and football teams bring in profits that “support” golfers, gymnasts, field hockey players and swimmers – predominantly white sports played by mostly upper-middle-class kids whose families are, more often than not, perfectly capable of paying tuition.

As for the other argument that athletes might not get what others get but at least they’re “better off” for having walked on our hallowed ground: Would such paternalistic rhetoric ever be applied to other subsets of students? If all left-handed students were told they could not take classes after 2 p.m., that they could never intern during the summer, that study abroad was out of the question, that the idea of writing a year-long honors thesis was a non-starter, but that, “Hey, you’re left-handed, so be happy” – would anyone consider that acceptable?

Jay M. Smith

Chapel Hill

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