Senator Chris Murphy of Conn. wants the NCAA to pay student athletes

Boston Globe

While most people are fretting over their brackets as March Madness enters the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament this week, US Senator Chris Murphy is thinking about something else sports-related: paying the student athletes playing in the games.

The Connecticut lawmaker and his office Thursday released the first in a series of reports about how advertisers, executives, coaches, and college administrators reap the benefits from college sports, while the athletes who are competing receive no monetary compensation — a disparity he called a “civil rights issue.”

“It’s time for the NCAA to find a way to compensate student-athletes,” Murphy tweeted Thursday morning, after the lengthy report was released. “College football & basketball have become a multi-billion dollar industry and everyone is cashing in except the players who are doing the work.”

The 14-page report, called “Madness, Inc.,” is a “deep-dive into the profits of college sports, and how it’s making everyone rich but the students,” said Murphy, a member of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Murphy used Zion Williamson, a Duke University player and probably a future first-round NBA draft pick, as a prime example of the need to look into the current state of college sports.

College sports’ governing body, particularly as it pertains to the revenue sports, is the master of hypocritical behavior.

In February, Williamson fell to the ground in agony in the opening minute of a game against the University of North Carolina after his Nike shoe blew out, according to the Associated Press.

In the end, Williamson suffered a minor sprain to his right knee. But the “freak injury,” as the Associated Press called it, led to Nike’s stock dropping significantly and some uncertainty about the rest of Duke’s season and the star player’s future.

“Williamson’s shoe is a symbol of what college sports has become, and what March Madness embodies,” Murphy said in the introduction to the report. “Big-time college sports is a business. Everything the student-athletes do affects the bottom lines for institutions and corporations alike.”

Murphy, an avid basketball fan, said in a statement Thursday that subsequent reports will examine other aspects and problems he sees within the college-sports industry, including “the nature of amateurism, how programs fail to provide a full education to their student-athletes,” and “the long-term health consequences that student-athletes face.”

While Murphy concedes there is no “simple solution” to what he believes is serious inequity between players and those making money from college sports, he hopes the initial findings in his report spark a larger conversation that could lead to changes down the road.

“We fill out brackets and fill up stadiums because the effort and devotion student athletes put into their sport is special,” the report concluded. “But these student athletes deserve more than our fanhood. They deserve to receive fair compensation for their work.”