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One of the biggest (if not the biggest) annual sporting tournaments is officially upon us: NCAA March Madness, the basketball tournament which features 68 college basketball teams squaring off in front of millions of adoring fans to earn the title as National Champions. Aside from reasons surrounding regional and collegiate pride, the tournament also seems to capture the attention of millions around the world annually due in large part to its single game elimination format.

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The tournament has become so big that it is expected to generate advertising revenues north of 1 billion dollars in 2015, something that probably isn’t overly surprising given how big the sporting world is. However, what many may not know about the tournament is that not a single penny of this revenue is ever given to even one of the players involved.

Comedian and talk show host John Oliver brilliantly shed some light on this issue on an episode of his show, “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” comically exposing the apparent scam:

Key Points From The Video

  • March Madness brings in over 1 billion dollars in ad revenue, which seem to be shamelessly placed everywhere within the tournament.
  • The Head of the NCAA sees payment for students as non-debatable since they are not employees and are instead students.
  • One former NCAA athlete, Shabazz Napier, revealed in a post-game interview that at times he could not afford to feed himself.
  • Before being allowed to compete, athletes must sign a form stating that they are amateurs forfeiting all compensation, and because of this are bound by all of the rules in a 440 page manual.
  • The education the athletes do receive as part of their scholarship is often watered down to ensure they receive the necessary grades to compete amidst their very busy training schedules.
  • Unlike the students, many of the coaches receive lavish salaries.
  • Many of the top schools find ways to spend their earnings needlessly to keep their status as not-for-profit.
  • Athletes are only one injury away from losing their scholarship, not receiving any form of compensation, and joining the statistic that has made student loans the most crippling debt in America.

Accepted Exploitation?

While a small percentage of these athletes will go on to make millions of dollars once drafted by an NBA team, the vast majority of them will play out their collegiate career being seemingly exploited. Yes, they were given the opportunity to showcase their talents, but at what cost?

As some of the professional athletes have mentioned, the training schedules are ruthless, forcing most of these students to forgo much of the academic part of the college experience. So is a college “education” equitable compensation for a tournament that generates its organizers more than a billion dollars annually?

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What are your thoughts on the NCAA’s decision to not offer any form of compensation to its players within the tournament? Do you think this is justified? Or is it another example, amongst many, that shows how corporate America really has no interest in improving the well-being of the general public? Let us know via the comment section below.


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