Sunday, March 29, 2015

Actual exploitation

I do feel guilty about enjoying college sports. Covering the sport, today's WSJ includes an interview with ESPN's Jay Bilas who invokes the only appropriate descriptor, "exploitative."  "The NCAA will rake in about $800 million from broadcasting rights to this year's tournament -- a more than 500% increase from two decades ago. Yet this represents a mere sliver of the nearly $12 billion in revenues that flow annually through college athletic programs -- principally, men's football and basketball."  Everyone gets fat except the players who contribute most of the value added. Players are prohibited from offering their services to the highest bidder. The NCAA has strict rules and the legal power to enforce.

The story has been told many times. (See, for example, Joseph Epstein in Friday's WSJ). I cite it here because "exploit" and "exploitative" roll off the tongue in casual conversation all the time, mostly inaptly. It is apt when there are legally sanctioned cartel agreements that consign the talent (usually African-American in this case) to the crumbs while sanctimonious college and league officials (and politically connected alums) pile it on about the "amateur" status of "student athletes."

Let's reserve "exploitation" to the cases where legal coercion is in play.