The SEC’s last reported annual revenue was $314.5 million. The Big 10’s was $315.5 million. With huge revenues like this collected while student athletes often struggle financially, a hot bed topic around sports has been whether or not college athletes should get paid or allowed to unionize to bargain for better benefits.
During The Civil Rights Summit, NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell was asked his opinion on the potential unionization of student athletes. Russell compared their struggle to that of NBA players in the 60’s and 70’s who had to fight to form their own players union in order to receive fair pay.
”All great fortunes are amassed with either cheap or slave labor,” Russell said. ”The NCAA is the one group everybody is focusing on. They have this money machine. To keep it this way, the labor force has to be free or very low wages … All the agreements with the NBA now are based on collective bargaining.”
I understand what Russell was trying to say here and its historical context. Comparing the NCAA directly to slavery may be a little harsh, but there are certainly a lot of people getting rich on a collegiate athletic system centered around free/cheap labor. Commissioners, athletic directors, coaches, etc. are scared to death of how a potential union would hurt their pockets.