It's time again for March Madness, the NCAA's annual college basketball tournament/billion-dollar reminder that student-athletes still don't get paid a damn thing, despite the daily risk of injury and the fact that their labor generates ludicrous piles of cash for their not-technically-employers.
Here is 20 minutes of unadulterated John Oliver fire, interrupted only by a quick gag about a Wes Anderson orgy. The whole thing is worth watching, but here's the one-minute version:
"Student-athlete" was a term invented to keep from paying out workman's comp to college players, and the misnomer persists today to justify paying them nothing at all—except for an ephemerally valuable "education." That's not to say education has no value, but that athletes can't capitalize on it because of the harsh schedules their sports impose, and the "paper classes" many are pushed into to ensure they have the grades to keep playing.
While players with no income struggle to eat and keep the lights on at home, the schools and the NCAA are welcome to exploit players' likenesses in any way they choose. A former college player successfully sued the NCAA after he appeared in a video game years after he graduated, without his knowledge, permission, or any payment.
And it's not like most college players wind up as rich pros, either. The percentage who go on to play professionally is in the low, low single-digits.
So, what's the NCAA's excuse for failing to compensate the kids whose talent funds their multimillion-dollar athletic facilities and coaching salaries?
"It completely changes the entire notion of what college sports is all about," says NCAA president Mark Emmert, in a clip from Frontline.
"And you know, he's right," Oliver quips, "If college sports is all about exploiting people, then, yes, paying athletes would absolutely change the entire notion of what college sports are all about."