Nationwide — The University of Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier has just led his team to a NCAA championship game, but he also recently told reporters that he sometimes goes to bed “starving” because he can’t afford food. His remarks sparked a very controversial debate on whether or not college basketball players should be compensated, as the very league they play for makes millions and millions of dollars.
Napier specifically said, “I don’t feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but… there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving.” He later added, “When you see your jersey getting sold — it may not have your last name on it — but when you see your jersey getting sold and things like that, you feel like you want something in return.”
Rep. Matthew Lesser of the state of Connecticut said that he and his fellow state lawmakers are considering legislation, and Connecticut law does govern whether employees at a public institution can unionize. Lesser commented, “He says he’s going to bed hungry at a time when millions of dollars are being made off of him. It’s obscene. This isn’t a Connecticut problem. This is an NCAA problem, and I want to make sure we’re putting pressure on them to treat athletes well.”
But some say Napier’s results were exaggerated.
A UConn handbook for student-athletes mentions provisions for dining, and clearly says that student athletes can eat in any residence hall between 7 a.m. and 7:15 p.m. In fact, according to CNN who obtained a copy of the handbook, it reads “If you live off campus and your grant-in-aid includes meals, you may use your stipend to purchase an on-campus meal plan. … This will entitle you to eat in any of the facilities.”
But despite what the handbook says, many still agree that the student athletes should be compensated.
Napier led his team to a 60-54 victory over the University of Kentucky, and was named game MVP for his 22 points, six rebounds and three assists. The game attracted millions of viewers, and the NCAA thus made millions of dollars via sponsors and advertisers. So why not share the money with the players?
As obvious as it sounds that student athletes should considered employees because of the hours that they put in, NCAA President Mark Emmert called the idea “grossly inappropriate.” He even went as far as saying that “it would blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics.”