The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) rakes billions of dollars from student football and basketball athletes. But it doesn’t want to pay them and is now citing a 13th Amendment loophole — one that says prisoners should not be paid for their labor.
So, are student athletes prisoners? Apparently, they are, according to the NCAA. And at least one former NCAA athlete is extremely offended by the notion.
According to Shaun King, ex-college football player Lawrence “Poppy” Livers, in his lawsuit, argued that athletes with scholarship who play sports are employees and should be paid as such, at least for the time they put in for their games. However, the NCAA countered the argument by citing a despicable, age-old loop hole in the U.S. code that was used during the Vanskike v. Peters case over 25 years ago.
Daniel Vanskike was an inmate at the Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, who brought a lawsuit against the director of the state Department of Corrections, Howard Peters. Vanskike argued on the basis of human rights and asserted that prisoners should be paid the minimum wage for their work. However, the court rejected his claim after citing the 13th Amendment and Vanskike lost his case.
The 13th Amendment in the United States Constitution is commonly celebrated as a law that abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. However, it has a catch: The law is void for criminals. The phrase, “except as a punishment for crime” allows U.S. prisons to force their inmates do whatever they please, till this day.
Vanskike v. Peters has been cited in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals 14 times, but in all of those times the complaints arose from prisoners wanting pay.
Livers, as is reasonable, believes the law should not apply to student-athletes who are, after all, not prisoners.
“Defense Counsel’s insistence that Vanskike be applied here is not only legally frivolous, but also deeply offensive to all Scholarship Athletes — and particularly to African-Americans,” Livers said. “Comparing athletes to prisoners is contemptible.”
But the NCAA apparently doesn’t think so. For the body that manages college sports and makes billions out of it, relying on an antiquated law for slave labor of convicted criminals to justify its stance against college students on scholarships is a new low. It shows the utter disregard of the NCAA for the students, many of who do not even enjoy full scholarships and probably have to work part-time, along with their hectic sports schedule, to pay for their tuition and other living expenses.
To the bigoted NCAA, these students are just cash cows and should be milked for all their worth — or just slaves who do not deserve fair wages.