P5 Football and Basketball Players: Make Your School, Knight Fdtn, and LEAD1 Donate to the National College Player Association

You are a big time college basketball or football player. You have a big-time political problem. But you probably don’t know it. You also have a big economic problem, and you probably don’t recognize it.

Right now the NCAA is undertaking a full.-court-press, by lobbying on the U.S. Congress, to push their point of view – not yours – with respect to your big-time political and economic problems. And, by the way, your interests directly conflict with those of the NCAA.

So what are these players’ big problems?

Part of it is that the NCAA does not want you to get, or wants to severely limit, your name, image, and likeness rights — the kind of asset which every other citizen owns, to use – and even sell – to generate public attention, for himself or others.

But it’s broader than that; the NCAA, I’m guessing, has a more fundamental goal: they want to preserve their unlimited control over college sports. In legal language, that means they want an antitrust exemption: they want Congress to tell the courts to lay off, and let the NCAA continue to operate as some separate, foreign entity, not subject to U.S. Laws.

In fact, the NCAA is now quite cranky about the federal judges who recently (in the O’Bannon and Alston decisions) have been telling the NCAA that it has been violating those anti-competitive antitrust laws, and does not have the right to exercise autocratic control over all of college sports.

But the issue is even more profound: if it weren’t for the NCAA’s disinformation over the 63 years since 1956, when it began allowing players to get pay-for-play (with what are euphemistically called “athletic scholarships”), almost every P5 player would now be categorized under state statutes as employees. The NCAA knows that, and the federal legislation they are now lobbying for will, I am estimating, help insure that NCAA players cannot get that employee status.

And one more thing: the NCAA likes a rigged game.

So what do you need to do, as a big-time college basketball or football player? Two things:

#1 Email your athletic director, to demand he donate to NCPA, for Political Purposes — and demand that LEAD1 donate to NCPA, for Political Purposes

Why? Get a load of this. Within the last 3 years, the 129 P5 athletics directors have,formed their own “trade group,” called LEAD1. (Yes, their own trade group: these are million dollar-per-year people, who somehow think they need a trade group.) But LEAD1 is just a lobbying front. They hired as their executive director ex-Congressman Tom McMillen, who lives near D.C., and is an old Trump buddy. They’ll tell you their mission is educational: don’t believe it, they are a lobbying group. And McMillen  even explicitly — and preposterously — claims that he and his LEAD1 represent the interests of players. They don’t. 

And here are the kickers about LEAD1:

a) this private club consists of highly-paid executives who do not even have the decency to pay their own fees for membership — they make their school-employer pay! But get this: this happens because most, if not all of its athletics-director members, have huge conflicts-of-interests, as they sign the checks, with their school’s name at the top, to fund their very own trade group! These people are shameless.

b) but it’s worse than that: McMillen and LEAD1 pretend to represent the players’ interests – without ever asking the players! An example: ask ED McMillen what happened with LEAD1’s expensive, large study of the cost and efficacy of potential group disability insurance for players. If LEAD1 works for players, why did every Revenue player not get a copy of that study, and why has that report – on an issue so fundamental to the player’s interests – been kept private? Or, with respect to current ‘hot’ issues, having to do with player NIL rights, did McMillen or LEAD1 ever canvass all players? (That would’ve been easy: one email to all players.) No, they didn’t.  LEAD1 is scamming both Congress, and the D1 players. In fact, if public school athletic directors constitute about 70% of LEAD1’s membership, why is anything which LEAD1 does also not in plain view, for inspection by every player? It’s because LEAD1 protects the private, narrow interests of athletics directors (and, most likely, the school and NCAA). If this is not true, fine: LEAD1 should immediately open up their entire operation to public view. What say you, Tom McMillen, who, 30 years ago, was a champion of player rights?

More to the point, for D1 players: demand that your school pay the very same amount it annually pays to LEAD1, to  NCPA, to protect the players’ interests. NCPA has very little money, particularly when you stack it up against the billions which fund the NCAA, schools, and LEAD1, all of whom can get a sit-down with a congressman or senator, with just a phone call. (The NCAA and schools are way out ahead on these issues, already spending significant time and resources lobbying Congress)

Every player should write an email to his athletic director, to demand that the school donate to NCPA (a trade group) the exact same amount which it annually donates to LEAD1 (a trade group). Your athletic director has no good reason to refuse to do so.

NCPA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and donations are tax deductible. Donate at this website: https://www.ncpanow.org/about/how-to-make-a-donation-to-the-ncpa; twitter is @ncpanow. Or mail to NCPA, PO Box 6917, Norco, CA 92860]  I have zero connection with NCPA.

Every player should also email LEAD1, to demand that the organization, funded entirely by the schools which employ players to make them money, generate a substantial contribution to NCPA.

LEAD1’s link is https://lead1association.com/

#2 Email the Knight Foundation, to Demand that they donate to NCPA, for Political Purposes

The Knight Foundation has, for years, used its big pot of non-profit endowment to purport to move for change in college athletics. And since its founding in 1991, P5 school annual revenues have exploded from about $1/2 billion to $12 billion – yet Knight has buried its economic head in the sand, to the detriment of (primarily black) revenue players, to instead obsessively focus upon ‘educational’ issues.

Knight’s leadership is lost at sea.  They purport to have noble goals, but their operations are still plagued by what former Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer called “Random Agenda-Making.” Their ED Amy Perko, and their all-star board member, Arne Duncan, are lost at sea when trying to prioritize their spending and focus.

Here’s a quick, corrective primer for Knight:

1) Safety First: Knight should be obsessed with player safety. Why? Because EVERY other real American business is obsessed about safety. But not the NCAA, and not Knight.  This is a breach of Knight’s non-profit fiduciary duty.

2) Stamp out economic exploitation of workers: 

Within the last month, Knight has done a 180 turn, abandoning their prior focus upon purely educational issues, to declare that they, suddenly, now support the NCAA’s heavy-handed ‘need’ to get federal legislation. But neither Perko or Duncan have deighned ot tell the public – or players — exactly what their position will be, when they jump in with the NCAA to press for federal legislation. They are not, apparently, sure if their big-money will be spent to lobby for a ‘school’ bill, or a ‘player’ bill. Incredibly, Knight may choose to spend their annual pot of cash to lobby for the schools and NCAA – entities with billion-dollar budgets which can hardly be seen by any reasonable person as requiring a nickel of donation, from Knight, or other sources. (Recall: if the NCAA and CFP today split annual revenues with Revenue players, 50-50, as the pro leagues do, the players’ share of such income would approximate $5 billion.) Knight is rudderless now and, if I could guess, it looks to me as though they are in the pocket of Mark Emmert and the NCAA.

Players should go on the Knight website, to email to demand that Knight contribute to NCPA.  [Knight Foundation’s website is https://www.knightcommission.org/ ; twitter @KnightAthletics.]

SUMMARY:  Request that your athletics director contribute to NCPA the same amount it contributed to LEAD1, and request that LEAD1 and Knight Foundation donate to NCPA. This will allow NCPA to hire one or more big-foot lobbyists, who can go toe-to-toe with the NCAA’s Mark Emmert,  LEAD1’s McMillen, and the NCAA member-schools’ lobbyists. The Revenue player’s political and economic interests are not being protected — or lobbied-for, and it is time for players to use their email and other power to influence issues which affect their economic bottom line.

About brewonsouthu

lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
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