Bethlehem Schoals and Tom Ziller of Fanhouse.com write on the racial dimension of this issue in the following way:
Of course, the age minimum has been a monumental failure (even according to no less an authority than U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who called the rule a "farce" in January). The rule saves NBA owners (almost exclusively white millionaires and billionaires) a few bucks at the expense of 18-year-olds (almost exclusively low- or middle-income blacks), who then have to navigate the extremely dirty water that is American college basketball recruitment or the possibly more perilous journey to Europe.
Some, including NCAA President Mark Emmert, might argue that the NCAA's recommendation forces athletes to pursue academic achievement instead of being distracted by sports. The problem is that by being a college athlete, you are already distracted by the massive wealth produced by college athletics. The only difference is that the players and their families are not getting the money, which is instead being funneled to the coaches and administrators who continue to keep athletes from having the same rights that the rest of us have as Americans. So, not only are athletes consistently hampered with the distraction of becoming multi-billion dollar field mules for those who are keeping all the money, they are additionally distracted by all of the financial problems in their homes that can't be solved while they remain in poverty.
The NCAA recently signed a $10.8 billion deal just for the rights to air March Madness. In fact, the NCAA earns as much or more money than most professional sports leagues. What makes this the greatest hustle in America is the fact that the NCAA, unlike other professional leagues, doesn't have to pay its employees a fair or living wage.
Black athletes and African American families are the ones who bear the greatest burden from the system of collegiate athletics. A select few successful black athletes are marketed all over our television sets, and many young black men become tempted to throw away their academic futures for a one in a million shot to become the next Michael Jordan. Most of them fall short and end up as uneducated pawns in a world that only wants to see them incarcerated or dead. The arrest of NBA star Antoine Walker, and the suicide of former NBA player Melvin Turpin are just two of the horror stories to come out of the persistently tragic relationship between the black male in America and the deceptive lottery ticket of professional sports.
How about this idea Dr. Emmert: Perhaps we can let athletes have the right to make their own decision? Given that Dr. Emmert and his colleagues are given labor market liberties that allow them to choose jobs, switch jobs and stay for as long or as short of a period as they wish, perhaps they might consider that athletes would like to have the same options.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the Athlete Liberation and Academic Reform Movement (ALARM). To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.