By Rickey Hampton, Editor and Founder of The African-American Athlete
It comes as no surprise _ at least to me _ that a recent poll by the Washington Post and the University of Massachusetts Lowell concluded that when it comes to paying college athletes black people and white people see things entirely different.
Fifty-four percent of African-Americans believe college athletes should be paid, while 59 percent of whites believe that a college scholarship is compensation enough.
Honestly, I don’t know why they even needed a study to conclude that. There are very few things black people and white people agree. Most white people feel the police do an excellent job. Most black people will tell you police have a long history of brutalizing black people.
Our experiences are far different. White people have not felt the generational sting of racism and discrimination, whose remnants still exist today. They think these things happened years ago, and that black folk should get past it.
Of course, most black people know for a fact that just is not the case. Racism and discrimination are as alive and hurtful as ever.
Now, I don’t claim to speak for the entire black community. But I would assume the 59 percent who feel
athletes should be compensated can’t understand why Alabama head football coach Nick Saban makes $11 million a year. That is nearly $1 million per game.
(On an aside, it is ironic that the coach at Alabama has built a football dynasty, and made millions, on the talent of young black men, who not that long ago were not even allowed to attend school there.)
What also drives the 59 percent are the astonishing disparities in wealth between African-American and whites. The median adjusted incomes for blacks and whites in 2014 were $71,300 for whites and $43,300 for blacks. The white net worth in 2013 was $144,200, compared to $11,200 for blacks. That ’s a nearly 13 times difference.
African-Americans are still trying to play catch up, and every possible dollar earned counts. White people don’t face those challenges, as the numbers clearly show.
Not only that, athletics has always meant more to black people than white people. Why would I say that? From the turn of the century, athletics provided black men with opportunities to perform, and earn a living, at the highest level.
Consider there was hardly a restaurant in the South that would have let Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion (1908-1915) dine there during his reign.
And, they would’ve lynched him if he went down there with one of the white women he dated or married. However, boxing was one of the few occupations that would allow him to earn enough money to buy some of the restaurants that would have closed the door to him.
Athletics has created countless millionaires in the black community, perhaps as much as any other institution.
Now, I know if you are white, you have had the entire world to choose from. If you wanted to be an athlete, fine. If you wanted to be a bank president, college president or even president of the United States, the opportunity was there, simply because of your pigmentation.
And to think, for years the major sports kept black athletes from participating. In 1947 When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in MLB; he opened the doors for generations of black athletes in all of the major sports. And many African-American athletes have used sports as a platform for social justice and change, as well as earning a living.
Let me be clear, I certainly see the lifetime value in education, and the opportunity a scholarship affords. However, I also see everyone involved in college athletics getting paid, the coaches, the television networks and the universities.
However, the people who generate that income are the athletes. I bet the 59 percent sees that, too.
There was a time when a scholarship was a fair deal for the talent the players provided to the team. But that was before ESPN paid the NCAA $7 billion to televise college football and CBS and Turner paid $8 billion to televise basketball.
It is time to share the wealth with the stars of the show.