Friday, March 11, 2011

Time to Reform the NCAA Plantation

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

I wrote about a new book regarding the NCAA’s alleged exploitation of black athletes, written by University of Georgia Professor Billy Hawkins. In his recently-released book, “The New Plantation,” Hawkins goes out of his way to help us understand that the method by which the NCAA does business is not much different from the mindset of plantation owners of the old south.

The analogies used by Professor Hawkins are thought-provoking and appear to be alarmist at first glance. After all, citizens are commonly comparing nearly every modern-day injustice to slavery in order to make a dramatic point. But in this case, the analogies are appropriate, in large part because slavery is not a dichotomy. Instead, it is actually a continuum, with complete freedom on one end and total servitude on the other. One could even argue that slaves themselves were not completely devoid of freedom, since they could have always chosen to run away, buy their freedom, maim themselves or even commit suicide as a way to escape their condition. The point of this very grim example is not to say that slavery was not entirely horrific; rather, it is to say that something does not have to be entirely horrific to be compared to slavery.


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