Athletes Take On Exploitation, Amateurism, Putting Self-Preservation First

Jan 9, 2019

With Meghna Chakrabarti

More athletes are refusing to be exploited, from high school, to college, to the pros. It’ll be a big trend in 2019, and we’ll dive in.


Kevin Blackistone, ESPN panelist and professor at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Sports columnist at the Washington Post. (@ProfBlackistone)

Robert Kehoe, writer-in-residence, program curator at Upper House, a Christian study center at the University of Wisconsin. Editor of the literary magazine “The Point.” Former Div. III soccer player at Wheaton College in Illinois. (@robertkehoe3)

Terri Jackson, executive director, WNBA Player’s Association (@TheWNBPA). Former director of law, policy, and governance with the NCAA. Her son, Jaren Jackson, Jr., plays for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.

From The Reading List

Washington Post: “One day, NFL players will thank Le’Veon Bell” — “On the wall in a foyer at NFL Players Association headquarters in Washington is a mural on which a long-ago lineman named Bill Radovich is pictured. Radovich made it to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, 1938, with the Detroit Lions. Around a three-year stint in the Navy during World War II, he played six more seasons, the penultimate of which was a first-team all-pro performance with the Los Angeles Dons, before retiring after 1947.

“Radovich’s career has not been noted by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But years ago, he was imprinted at the players’ union because in 1949 he became the first player to sue the NFL for the right to play for more money and where he wanted, just like most of us who aren’t professional athletes can do.

“Someday, maybe, former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will be embossed next to Radovich in the union’s Dupont Circle office.

“After all, what Bell decided to do Tuesday was claim ownership of his destiny rather than allow the NFL or the franchise for which he plays to dictate it for him. Having refused to play all season because he was unable to get terms he liked, Bell didn’t show up at Steelers headquarters to sign a one-year franchise-player contract to play this year. NFL franchise-player contracts pay a predetermined salary based on the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position, or 120 percent of a player’s salary from the previous season. Per league rules, the Steelers’ offer expired at the end of that day. And so did Bell’s last chance to play for anyone this season.”

The Players’ Tribune: “Bet on Women” — “This is not just about business. This is deeply personal. This is about the kind of world we want to live in.

“I am an elite athlete. I am an MVP. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a No. 1 draft pick. I am a WNBA player and I am the president of the WNBPA.

“And I want young female athletes to dream about playing in a vibrant and thriving WNBA. I want them to dream of having it all.

“I don’t want the best and the brightest female athletes in the world dreaming about playing in the NBA. I don’t want the best and the brightest young girls growing up thinking that men are the pinnacle. I want those girls dreaming about growing up into the best women they can be.

“And I want them to dream about the league that I know ours can become. A league that has a fair and consistent work environment. A league that treats its players as the world-class athletes they are. A league that invests in its future. A league that believes in us as much as we believe in it.

“And it’s not just me who wants this. I’m one of 144 WNBA players.

“And today, we as the WNBPA are choosing to opt out of the current CBA and are instead looking toward a new chapter of the WNBA.”

New York Times: “A New Option for N.B.A. Prospects: The Million-Dollar Intern” — “The third-floor corner cubicle reserved for Darius Bazley comes with a window view and overflows with athletic shoe prototypes and sports memorabilia. There was a Liverpool soccer jersey, still in its plastic packaging, folded over the back of Bazley’s new desk chair when he arrived. On a shelf adjacent to the desk sit retro James Worthy high-tops in North Carolina colors. Not-yet-released baseball spikes for Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros sit on another.

“It is an inviting setup for an internship — at least for college-age trainees who love sports. Bazley, of course, isn’t your typical intern.

“He is a 6-foot-9, 210-pound top basketball prospect who planned to spend this winter starring at the Carrier Dome as a prized freshman for Syracuse University. Then, in March, Bazley stunned many in the sport by announcing he was decommitting from Syracuse so he could play out his one-year wait for the 2019 N.B.A. draft in the N.B.A.’s developmental-tier G League.

“Yet that plan has also been nixed. In May, Bazley signed with the prominent agent Rich Paul, who represents LeBron James, John Wall and Ben Simmons among Klutch Sports’ 18 N.B.A. clients. Last week, Paul revealed that he had arranged for Bazley to spend the heart of the college basketball season — January, February and March — as an intern at New Balance.”

Brian Hardzinski produced this hour for broadcast.

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