View transcript Hide transcript

Male speaker: I'm sorry. I heard a lot of condescension toward student athletes and toward the college athletes in that. The courts have ruled that these are effective monopolies that the NCW... otherwise, you wouldn't have these rules. Otherwise, you wouldn't be generating $771 million. These sports are popular not because everybody believes that they're amateurs. That's what people said, that the Olympics would dry up when it dropped amateurism, and it didn't. People barely noticed. They are popular because they are connected to tradition. They are young people. They are connected to your school and they were... they are producing an amazingly non-amateurish wonderful product out there that captivates people. The notion of student athlete is a fiction created by the NCWA by its own admission to beat a workman's compensation cases in court.

It's kind of a neither here nor there, neither student nor athlete. Anybody and in NCWA, people repeat that phrase five times percent because it's their jurisdiction. What we should see is it's not that complicated, just like ending amateurism, which is the whole basis of the NCWA's fortune power and the whole basis of all our contempt for the dirty athlete. Get rid of that. Say they're entitled as... just as much as you and I to seek compensation for what we do well. Students who play sports in college at a high level are students and athletes. They're just like any other two-career person. They should, if they are functioning well in both spheres, the university is responsible for making them bonafide athletes and many universities don't do very good job. NCWA actually performs well in that regard on the academic side.

They are also athletes. They work 40, 60 hours a week as athletes. They have to work as students and a lot of them aren't that well-endowed academically. So for the ones that perform as students and athletes, they deserve enormous respect beyond even the accolades that they get on the field. What we give them is boost and whispers and a little condescension, "Shut up. You're lucky to get your scholarship." To me, it is fundamentally wrong and it's un-American.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Original speech by Taylor Branch, delivered at the American Enterprise Institute. Taylor is the author of many fascinating books about the civil rights movement and a similarly fascinating Twitter account. For more background on the controversy surrounding pay for student athletes, read this from The Atlantic. And this from ESPN about Northwestern University athletes' historic unionization drive. Thumbnail image by user tamuc, used under Creative Commons license.

Love the story?

Flash Video Embed

This video is not supported by your device. Continue browsing to find other stuff you'll love!

In case you were wondering what matters to us, it's your privacy. Read our updated privacy policy.

Hey, Internet Friend. Looks like you're using a crazy old web browser, which is no longer supported. Please consider upgrading to something more modern—for a better experience, and a safer time online. We only want the best for you.

Download Google Chrome, and try it for a week. Don't think about it, just do it. You'll thank us later.