Friday, May 23, 2014

Random Thoughts: Sports Blogging Edition

Its been a some time since I blogged about anything - sort of a combination of laziness and having other things to do.  Per usual, whenever there are a few stories I want to discuss, throw them together in a longer post. This time, I'm going to stick to sports - more from the law/policy angle than the sports fan angle.  Although, to get that out of the way - Raiders suck!  Anyway, here are my thoughts on a few sports stories:

Donald Sterling Is Selling the Clippers?

The recent reports - and I mean the reports as of this morning - indicate that Sterling has agreed to sell the Clippers, and that is wife is the one who be in charge of the sale. And yes, Sterling is married despite having several public relationships with other, younger, women.  Per Bill Simmons' twitter feed, the estimates for sale price is somewhere around $2 BILLION.  Given that Sterling bought the Clippers for $13 million, that's a hefty chunk of change for someone to get for any investment. 

Now here's where I'm somewhat surprised. Sterling is over 80 years old, not strapped for cash (already is a multibillionaire), and loves owning the Clippers. Like a lot of owners of sports teams, this is his toy. He gets to be one of 30 guys in the WORLD who own an NBA team. Indeed, the whole reason Sterling might $2 billion for the Clippers is precisely because an NBA ownership is so rare.  And its for that reason that to Sterling owning the Clippers was priceless. So, I thought that financial considerations would mean nothing to him. At the same time, the utility of owning the Clippers has probably been damaged by Sterling's pariah status. Still, I assumed that Sterling would believe that he could simply ride out the damage while suing the NBA.  I'm glad I was wrong.

College Athletics

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a fantastic panel discussion on the NCAA and college athletics, sponsored by the Enright Inn of Court - a lawyer's group here in San Diego.  On the panel was Ramogi Huma, President of the College Athletes Player Association (the guys who were behind the unionization at Northwestern), DJ Gay (point guard for some of SDSU's best basketball teams), Jason Carter - former player at Texas A&M and former NFLer, now head coach of La Jolla High, Jim Sterk - current Athletics Director of San Diego State University, and John Brockington - who played for Ohio State in the NFL for the Packers.  The question was, does the NCAA exploit collegiate athletes.

While I expected Mr. Huma to attack the NCAA (he did), and I expected Mr. Sterk to advocate for the NCAA (he also did), what surprised me was the depth of the disenchantment that DJ Gay and Jason Carter (both of whom were more recent athletes in college) had with the current system.  As Mr. Huma laid into the NCAA time and time again, Mr. Carter and Mr. Gay mostly agreed with him.  Meanwhile, Jim Sterk looked increasingly uncomfortable on the panel.  

It was also interesting to see that the experiences of John Brockington were completely different from the experiences of Mr. Huma, Mr. Carter, and Mr. Gay.  In his era, practices were limited, and guys would work over summers to earn pocket money for the upcoming year (like everyone else does).  But recently, of course, college athletes aren't allowed to have side jobs, and spend more and more time working out or practicing.  As a result, they can't take the majors they may want, and they can't be part of the campus life that makes college so special.

Of more interest was the demands of Mr. Huma - not direct cash payments, per se, but basic guarantees like injury coverage (post-collegiate career), that scholarships continue after the playing days are over (so athletes can finish their degrees after their eligibility is over), and allow players to reap benefits with their schools over the sale of their likenesses (right now, the NCAA maintains that it owns the rights to athletes' likenesses in perpetuity). 

Now again, Huma is supposed to be an advocate and push for reforms - that's his job - but what surprised me was again, how much guys like Gay and Carter agreed with what Huma said. If I had to guess, the resentment towards the NCAA runs deep.  

And, let's face it, the NCAA has done a lot to ensure resentment exists. NCAA athletes are paid in scholarships, but have schedules that limit their ability to get an education. Their room and board is taxed by the government, and doesn't cover all their food costs. All the while, collegiate athletics is a multiBILLION DOLLAR industry. If they get hurt, there's no guarantee that the school will honor the scholarship.  Even if it does, insurance only covers the athlete so long as he/she is in school.

The more I think on it, the more I think that there was no way Sterk had a chance yesterday.  The system is utterly broken.

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