MR. GREEN: Thank you, Jackie. Thanks for having me. Extremely excited to be here and obviously always excited to cover this topic, which I think, you know, is long overdue for some change. So, I’m excited to be here.
MS. ALEMANY: Yeah, and we’re especially thrilled to have you on Equal Pay Day no less. But I just want to start off with you giving us an idea about, you know, where you’re coming from, sharing some of your story, your journey into professional sports and what your experience was like playing college ball. I know you previously said that you struggled to make ends meet at some points.
MR. GREEN: A lot of times struggled to make ends meet. You know, and coming from Saginaw, Michigan, I mean, kind of a lower-income household, you know, blessed to get a scholarship and, you know, able to attend Michigan State and pursue my dreams and goals of not only getting a degree but also one day making it to the NBA, which I’ve been fortunate enough to do.
But there were many times throughout college where was no gas money, there was no food, you know, getting up with my teammates and us all figuring out how to get food. And, you know, thinking back on those days, I understand how tough it was. And you know, we all know the way the world works. Inflation and all these things takes place. It’s getting even harder for these students to feed themselves, to be able to get a nice pair of jeans if they want to, but yet they’re bringing in billions of dollars to the NCAA. And so, I think, you know, for me and my experience, you know, when I would get extra money, I would send money home to my mom. And you know, that wasn’t extra money like I just had a bunch of money. That’s, oh, I paid my rent, I paid my light bill, you know, off of my housing stipend. I got an extra $150. Sent a hundred to my mom because I know she can’t--she’s struggling to keep the lights on. You know, and so all of those things go into play.
And you know, one thing about especially going to a school like Michigan State, you’re always on national television. And what does people in their mind think when they see you on television? The first thing they think is money. They think you’re very rich, and that isn’t the case. And so, in my position and a lot of guys like myself, you kind of get thrusted into this position within your family of supposedly the head of the family, the guy to make the decision, the guy who everyone calls on, and that’s not the case. Yet we’re sitting in these one-, two-bedroom apartments with no money, with no food and trying to make ends meet. And for the amount of money that I brought to Michigan State, that I brought to the NCAA, that Zion Williamson brought to Duke and brought to the NCAA is completely and utterly ridiculous.
MS. ALEMANY: Yeah. And I probably should disclose, I actually played Division I college basketball, so, you know, it’s really no joke. I mean, it’s a full-time job. And what you are describing is a ton of responsibility on top of that being a full-time job. And you’ve made the point previously that the coronavirus pandemic especially showed us that college sports is anything but amateur, with student athletes putting their lives on the line during the pandemic to continue playing the sport that we all love. But you have now since endorsed Senator Murphy and Congresswoman Trahan’s College Athlete Economic Freedom Act that would allow college athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness. Why should lawmakers get behind this? Why did you get behind it?
MR. GREEN: Well, I mean, number one, like you said, it is 100 percent a full-time job. We are not allowed--I mean, essentially unless it’s the summertime, you don’t really have the time to even get another job. And if I’m not mistaken, at some point you aren’t even allowed to have another job. And so, you know, that was ridiculous, just as the rest of it is. And so, you know, with Senator Murphy’s Freedom Act, you know, I wanted to get behind that because I understand the challenges that these student athletes face because I was once a student athlete.
And like I said before, to watch, to sit back and watch them continue to be taken advantage of, you’re a part of the issue. You know, if you know something’s going wrong, it’s like if you’re watching a kid get bullied, if you’re watching a rapist take advantage of a young woman or a young man, and you don’t say anything, you’re just as guilty as that rapist, you’re just as guilty if you’re sitting and watching this issue constantly go on, year after year after year, and you don’t--you don’t step in, you don’t say nothing, you have these lawmakers who have the power to say we’ve watched--we’ve watched this modern day slavery take place long enough, and it’s time for a change--and that is why I am getting behind this Freedom Act--you’re as a big of a problem as the NCAA is.
MS. ALEMANY: And before we get into some of the opposing arguments, I think you make a really good point there that’s often missed in the opinions that a lot of people have on this issue, that when we’re looking in the broader context, in the context of history. You know, you’ve said that this is an issue. This is a racial justice issue, the issue of compensating student athletes. Can you expound on that a little bit?
MR. GREEN: Oh, well, it is 100 percent, you know, a racist justice issue--a racial justice issue, excuse me. When you look at especially the makeup of the basketball landscape, it is a predominantly African American-based sport. When you look at basketball across the United States, across college basketball, and especially in the NBA, it’s predominately African Americans that are dominating the sport. And yet we continue to tell people we’re--hey, be satisfied. We’re paying for your education. Which I know for sure--I’ve donated money to Michigan State--and I know for a fact some of that money went to the education of a Michigan State student. And so, to--for them to constantly say or continuously say we’re paying for your education, be satisfied, that’s enough, that’s ridiculous.
You know, no one knows who Mark Emmert is. If Mark Emmert walked--as much as I’ve been involved in the NCAA, is Mark Emmert walked past me right now, I wouldn’t say, oh, man, that’s Mark Emmert. But if Jalen Suggs walked past me right now, I would 100 percent know that that’s Jalen Suggs. And so, you know, we constantly--and you know, we’ve had situations where a Christian Dawkins is trying to help these students and, you know, help these young Black men, and they’re trying to send them to prison. You know, you have these situations of where James Wiseman takes some help, and after three games he’s deemed ineligible and can’t play college basketball anymore. You know, and so when we constantly look at what’s going on and who’s being punished over and over again, it is the African American community that’s taken on all of those punishments. And all we’re asking is that you compensate us for the work that we’re doing.
And now, by the way, it’s not just African Americans being punished, so let me make that clear. The same rules that are punishing African Americans are punishing every other ethnicity that decides to go into college amateur sports. But when, you know, you look at this pandemic, for instance, I think we all know the wealth gap, the disparity in the wealth gap and how a lot of African American communities do not bring in the money that a predominately White community may bring in. African Americans don’t have the same rights to funding and don’t--I mean, we can go across the board. Yet the one route that you find out, which is basketball, and your talent makes someone a ton of money, you’re not able to take advantage of. And I think, you know, at this rate college basketball, they’re bringing in a couple to a few billion dollars a year, and their employees are getting no money. And I think at this--it’s been time, but it’s really time now when you look at where we are in the world, the climate of the racial injustices, it’s time for this one to change as well.
MS. ALEMANY: And I should note that college coaches, on top of all this, are predominantly White male and are compensated pretty well. But, you know, if we’re looking at an issue that has really, I think, caught some momentum around the country, Evanston, Illinois, being the first city to pay reparations to Black residents this week. We see again this popping up in conversations time and time again. Do you think that there should be some kind of reparations system set up by the NCAA to backpay players who have missed out on profits and opportunities during the course of their college career?
MR. GREEN: One thousand percent. You know, when you look at the landscape of college athletics, see, I think one thing people don’t realize is that there’s a huge difference in college basketball and NBA basketball, or professional basketball at any level, but especially the NBA. You know, you grow up wanting to make it to the NBA. I think that’s a dream of all of ours growing up. And when I say all of ours, I mean all basketball players. I don’t just mean African American basketball players. I mean basketball players as a whole. The goal is to make it to the NBA. What you don’t quite understand is how different the NBA game is from the college game.
And so, you take a player like let’s say Tyler Hansbrough for instance, where--and I think Tyler Hansbrough’s such a great--a great example being that he’s not an African American male and yet was completely taken advantage of. Tyler Hansbrough led the--all-time leader in the ACC in points, and which is incredible when you think of all the talent that’s come out of the ACC Conference. Had an okay NBA career. Not great by any stretch of the imagination, but I think he may have played eight to nine years in the NBA. Pretty good, but he never reached near the level that he was in college. And so, when you look at that and say, man, that guy never reached a level that he was at North Carolina, but you think about all of the things that he did at North Carolina, you think about all of the money that he made for North Carolina. I played in the Final Four in the National Championship against Tyler Hansbrough. I know how Ford Field looked; how many people were filling those stands when Tyler Hansbrough was on that floor against Michigan State. All of that money, and he cannot profit at all? You know, that’s ridiculous. You know, he’s bringing in so much for the NCAA, so much for the University of North Carolina, so much for the ACC, but yet he’s not able to profit.
So, then you watch him go on to the NBA, and his career never truly becomes what we all thought that it would be. He probably would have made more money at North Carolina than he made in the NBA. But yet we’re still living under these slave rules of, hey, well, no different than the slave, well, I’m giving you a place over your head. Go out in the field and pick the cotton. Hey, I’m giving you--I’m giving you a scholarship, I’m giving you an apartment building, now go out there and play and make me billions of dollars for my hundred-thousand-dollar investment that is not coming from the NCAA. It’s ridiculous.
MS. ALEMANY: And even on--even on the flipside of that, players who rushed to the NBA for financial reasons because, you know, they need the money even though they could have used that development in college and the education, obviously.
MR. GREEN: One hundred percent. And you think about it--listen, at 19, I didn’t know the difference in how $10,000 spent and how a million dollars spent. At 19, I knew $10,000 was a lot of money and I knew a million dollars was a lot of money. I said that to say, if you gave me $10,000 at 19, I wouldn’t be trying to sprint out of college to get to a million dollars, because all I know and understand is that this $10,000 is doing me a lot of justice, is great for my life at this point, and I’m doing just fine. I don’t need to rush and try to get the bigger bucks, because I truly don’t even understand what that means for me. The only thing I understand is that it’s more money. But I don’t understand what that means in the grand scheme of things. I don’t understand what that means for taxes. I don’t understand what that means as far as agencies. I don’t understand what that means as far as my union dues go. And so, you think of all of these things that you don’t understand what it means, but the one thing you do understand is that $10,000 for you is a lot of money. And one day, yes, I can make a million, but right now this $10,000 is doing me justice. I’m fine. I can focus on what I need to focus on.
You think about a marriage. One of the main reasons marriages break up is for financial reasons. And so, when you think about that from the standpoint of an athlete, how can you truly focus on a task at hand if finances is your number-one issue that you can’t seem to figure out? How can you give your all to any class that you’re in, to any workout, to any practice, to any game that you’re in if you always have this dark cloud sitting over you? And somewhere in the back of your mind you know that dark cloud shouldn’t be there because you understand the amount of money that you and your teammates and your friends that go to another university is bringing to this organization that’s not only refusing to pay but they’re refusing to let anyone else pay you as well. I mean, that’s--it’s a shame. And you know--
MS. ALEMANY: And I wanted to push you a little bit on your opponents’ arguments, though, which is that they’re worried that this could bifurcate the system, you know, incentivize people to pick a different school potentially, or, you know, as we see state legislation fomenting, send more people to California schools, for example, which has already passed legislation. Or, you know, cause people to maybe drop out of school early because they’ve made money, and now they just want to move on. What do you say to your opponents?
MS. GREEN: I think when you speak on someone wanting to move on because they made money, when they get the opportunity to move on because a job is paying them more money, they do, and no one is there to stop them. So why are you trying to stop us from moving on to make more money if we see fit? Because no one can stop you if you see fit. If you’re working for the NCAA and you’re making call it $120 grand, and some company comes by and they offer you $220 grand, you don’t see an issue with you leaving your job. But it’s an issue for me to leave college and pursue what could be a much better life for my family. Well, let’s explore why that is. Why that is, is because athletes are viewed as slaves. You’re viewed as workers for them, unpaid workers, uncompensated. And so that’s why it’s viewed that way--well, we can’t let them just go as they please, but we’re free to do whatever we want to do with our life. I think that is utterly ridiculous and it just goes to show--by the way, as many issues as we’ve been having with players being played, you had the--you had Ed O’Bannon suing. You’ve had all these lawsuits, and they continue to live by the same rules. I mean, that’s quite frankly just a--for lack of a better term that’s do whatever I want to do because you guys need me. You need this platform to perform, to pursue your dreams. And not only do you need this platform to perform to pursue your dreams, but this is also a route for some of you guys to get an education that you would not have because you are a byproduct of the system that has caused this huge wealth gap in between African American and predominately White communities. And so, you’re dealing with all these things. But, hey, here’s the opportunity for a college degree for you to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to our university and we give you this sheet of paper that in most instances now you need to go back to school and get another sheet of paper in order to get a job.
You know, and so I think there will always be an argument from the other side. And the reality is, those that are making those arguments, you are the oppressor. You are the biggest part of the issue, because you fail to open your eyes to the abuse, the daily abuse, the monthly--the weekly, daily--I mean daily, weekly, monthly, yearly abuse of this dictatorship. And at some point, everyone’s eyes need to be opened to this issue. And I think, you know, we’re starting to move forward in it, but there’s still a lot of changes that need to take place.
MS. ALEMANY: And Draymond, we only have a few more minutes, so I’m just going to drill you rapid-fire really quick. You need 60 votes in Congress if you want Murphy’s--Senator Murphy’s bill to get through. Are you planning on lobbying lawmakers directly in any way, or creating an organization to further these advocacy efforts?
MR. GREEN: I am planning to do whatever is needed to help these young college athletes get their due. As someone, like I said, who has gone through it--and by the way, not only to help these young college athletes get their due, but also to help the former college athletes get their due as well, because I mean, quite frankly, I’ve been blessed to be in a position to where I’ll be fine without. So, I’m not fighting for me. But I am fighting for the guy who was a superstar at this top university, yet is struggling to pay his bills today, but this university has every facility, nice facility known to man to recruit the next guy to come in, and yet this guy who gave blood--put all his blood, sweat and tears into this program and is a huge part of the reason that this facility stands here today, for you to go recruit that next young man, he needs to be paid just as much for what he’s done for the NCAA and for these colleges as our current athletes do, because it’s been ridiculous. It was ridiculous 40 years ago. And if we stay at the rate we’re going now, it’ll be ridiculous 40 years from now as well.
MS. ALEMANY: And you’ve said preciously that you’re good friends with Lebron James. You want him to run for president. If he--if there was a future James administration, what position would you want to serve in it?
MR. GREEN: What position would I want to serve in it? Ah, man, I don’t know. I don’t know. I think, you know, that’s a little way away for me. Right now, I just support Lebron, and I’ll watch from the sidelines and help where I can.
MS. ALEMANY: Any room for Kevin Durant in the hypothetical administration?
MR. GREEN: Always room for Kevin Durant in anything I want to be involved in. Always.
MS. ALEMANY: And you know what? Just on the topic of Equal Pay Day, I can’t let you go without asking you this. What do you have to say about the NCAA’s inequitable treatment of men and women? You’ve seen, I’m sure, those viral videos of the women’s weight rooms compared to the men’s. What is going on there?
MR. GREEN: Ah, well, I think that’s no surprise. You know, when you look at the landscape of the world, I think women are constantly taken advantage of. I think women are constantly overlooked. I think women are always a step behind just because you’re a woman. As, you know, Black people, you’re always a step behind just because you’re African American. And if you’re an African American woman, you’re even more steps behind. The NCAA and the weight room disparities show their beliefs in that. And you know, I think one thing that I’ve read is why women aren’t compensated at the same level as men, especially in sports. You know, you look at the disparity in Lebron James’ salary and Diana Taurasi’s salary, and you look at the disparity--and the one argument people make is, well, their sport don’t bring--don’t generate the amount of money that our sport does, or that the NBA generates way more money than the WNBA. True. That is true. And so, when I take a step back, as a businessman, and I say, well, that sport doesn’t generate enough--I can’t pay them more because it just doesn’t generate enough. As a businessman, I agree, you can’t. but what I will say is, why isn’t there more effort to promote their game? Why isn’t there more effort to push the women’s game forward? Because the NCAA--I mean, the NBA wasn’t always what it is today. The NBA was once viewed as a failing organization as well. The NBA was also once viewed as a money pit as well. But there were people that believed in it, they got behind it, and they did everything they had to do to push our game forward.
And so, the question that I ask is, where are the believers in the women’s game? Because as you say, they don’t bring in enough money to pay them more. I agree 100 percent. Unless you’re some tech startup out here in Silicon Valley, where you can lose hundreds of millions of dollars every year and your valuation goes through the roof, no other businesses work like that. So, I agree 100 percent that the WNBA does not bring in enough money to pay more. But my question is, where is everyone--what is everyone doing to push this game forward? What is everyone doing to market these women? What is everyone doing to make their platforms even bigger? Where are the believers that say just as the NBA was once viewed as a money pit, why can’t we look at this money pit and do everything we can to push this game forward? Because as a fan of basketball, I love watching the WNBA. I learn so much from watching the WNBA from a fundamental standpoint. You want to learn basketball fundamentals, you go watch the women play. You want to learn fundamentals? Don’t watch the NBA, because you won’t see much fundamental. The NBA goes off athleticism. The WNBA goes off fundamentals. As someone who loved all the little intricate parts of the game of basketball, the smaller details, as someone who tries to take advantage of every little thing on the basketball court, I love watching the WNBA.
So, my question is, if your answer is, well, they don’t bring in enough money, so business-wise that don’t make sense, where is your effort to help push this game forward? Because I happen to believe in my mind that if there were enough people to get behind this game and push it forward, their salaries will be raised because there is a market for them, because they are amazing athletes. They are amazing basketball players. Their fundamentals are top notch, better than your favorite NBA player. I guarantee you their footwork is better than your favorite NBA player. So, if you love this game so much, why can’t--
MS. ALEMANY: I’m so sorry. I have to cut you off. We’re out of time. Even though I could go on for a while on this topic.
MR. GREEN: No problem.
MS. ALEMANY: Thank you so much for joining us. I really do appreciate it. I know you have practice later today, so thank you again.
Next up I’m going to be speaking with Senator Murphy about his recent legislation and his push to make college sports more fair and equitable. Please stay with us, guys.
MS. ALEMANY: Hey, everyone. If you’re just joining us, we’re discussing equity in college sports and the push to reform the NCAA. Who better to speak with than Senator Chris Murphy? He’s joining us for this discussion. Senator Murphy, thanks so much for joining the Washington Post Live. How are you?
SEN. MURPHY: I’m great. Thanks for having me today. Appreciate it.
MS. ALEMANY: So, over the summer you co-authored an op-ed with Draymond Green, in which you laid out an argument for the compensation of college athletes. The timing was critical. Why?
SEN. MURPHY: Well, listen, first of all, Draymond’s a hard act to follow. You know, I can’t speak to this issue like he can. But I am a huge fan of college sports. I live in Connecticut. We obviously live and die with our basketball program. And you know, as a fan of college sports, I couldn’t help but notice that over the course of the last 10 to 15 years, college sports has all of a sudden looked like a mirror image of professional sports. There’s really, you know, not much difference in the quality of presentation or the quality of play between, you know, the top football programs in the Power 5 and the top football programs in the NFL. The guys that come out of the college ranks are playing and are being stars immediately in the pros. There’s just as much money in the college game, sometimes more money. People are getting rich off the college game--the coaches, the athletic directors, the shoe company executives. The only thing that’s different is that the players, the workers, the employees in the college game are poor as hell. These are kids who can’t afford to, you know, put food on the table for their family. Their parents can’t afford to come watch them play in the NCAA Tournament. It just seems to me unjust that there was so much money being made in college sports--way more money today than just 10 years ago, 15 years ago, and these students were getting nothing. It’s time to share the wealth. It’s time to see this as the civil rights issue that it is. And I’m glad that Draymond and a lot of athletes, both at the college level and the pro level, are finally speaking up about this.
MS. ALEMANY: And I’m pretty sure you’re a Boston Celtics fan, so I’m wondering whether how you and Draymond teamed up on this issue.
SEN. MURPHY: Well, I mean, listen, I’m a Celtics fan, a Red Sox fan, but, you know, I’m a basketball fan first and foremost. And I don’t believe that athletes have any obligation to just play. You know, I love athletes that speak up and have the guts to speak truth to power, and Draymond does that. UConn and Michigan State also had some pretty serious battles in the NCAA tournament in the regular season as well. So, you know, we know how tough a competitor he is. But he knows how tough it is for college athletes when they’re working 60 hours a week, they’re expected to be athletes first and academics come second. He also knows how hard it is for college athletes to, you know, be able to play their sport and provide for their family. You can’t have outside employment when you’re a college athlete, and yet a lot of these families are struggling to make ends meet. So, he speaks from experience, and that’s why he’s a real powerful, powerful advocate.
MS. ALEMANY: And there are other bills out there that currently address the issues of name, image, likeness, that include caveats that would allow the NCAA or schools control over those licensing structures. But I’m wondering how your bill that you just introduced, the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act that you authored with Congresswoman Trahan, how that’s different and how the legislation came together.
SEN. MURPHY: So, as you probably talked about, there’s a forcing mechanism here on Congress. States are passing laws allowing college athletes to do endorsement deals. I’m glad they are. But they’re conflicting. And so, you know, the theory of the case is that it’s going to be hard to run college sports if you have 50 different laws with 50 different sets of endorsement rights.
So, I think Congress should probably step in and set a uniform standard. But there’s sort of three ways to do that. One, you can give the NCAA the ability to sort of decide what endorsement deals are okay and which ones aren’t. Second, could you allow a federal agency to do that, the FTC. Or third, as Representative Trahan and I propose, you can give students a pretty unqualified right. You can just let students be able to do whatever endorsement deals they believe are in their economic best interests just like every other student who has a marketable skill is able to do at any school in America. Why treat student athletes different than other high labor value students that they go to school alongside? So, I just don’t trust the NCAA to do it. I don’t think they’ve shown that they are interested in putting students’ interests first. I’m open to a federal agency doing it. That’s what Senator Booker and Senator Blumenthal’s bill does. But in the end, I just think we’d be better off taking the reins off and letting these kids, you know, be able to do, you know, whatever endorsement deal comes their way.
MS. ALEMANY: You point out that there is a sense of urgency because states are passing legislation and the piecemeal effect would obviously be a bit confusing for the NCAA and various colleges to handle. Draymond told us he would go to bat for you on this legislation, lobbying Republicans. He told us he would do whatever it took to get this passed. But the Senate does not seem to be interested in passing much legislation right now. How are you going to get this through?
SEN. MURPHY: Well, that’s not true. We’re passing legislation. We just passed a $1.9 trillion rescue plan. So, listen--
MS. ALEMANY: Through budget reconciliation. I have to note there’s currently nine bills that the House has passed that the Senate has yet to take up, and there seems to be very little appetite amongst Republicans to support any of those bills.
SEN. MURPHY: So that is true. We’ve been busy with nominations. But your point is well taken. The Sente obviously proceeds more slowly. Here’s the--here’s a couple of things to say about that.
One, this issue I think can get more bipartisan agreement because it doesn’t sort of fall on the same kind of political lines that other controversial issues due, like immigration or taxes. There are a lot of Republicans who look at this as an economic freedom issue. We think it’s kind of strange that the market is restrained in the way that it is. A lot of Democrats may look at it more as a civil rights issue. But I’ve formed a working group a couple years ago with Senator Romney and Senator Rubio and then Senator Purdue. And we don’t agree on a lot, but we were able to, you know, start to explore common ground on this issue.
And then second, you know, I sort of wonder how much urgency there is. I’m not afraid of some of these state laws becoming operational. And then we can test the theory that the sky is going to fall. Maybe the NCAA can figure out a way to deal with different endorsement rules state to state. If they can, then there might not be need for federal intervention. Time will tell, and I think we should just keep talking across the aisle to see if we can come to some common understanding. It might not be as hard as it is on other issues.
MS. ALEMANY: What is your red line, though, for, you know, calling to scrap the filibuster, the procedural maneuver that requires now 10 Republican votes to get any legislation passed? Is it NCAA legislation that would cause you to potentially come out in favor of completely eliminating it? Is it background checks? Is there anything that would cause you to go further than the reform that you’ve already called for performing the filibuster?
SEN. MURPHY: Well, I don’t think that it would be NCAA reform. I think this is an important issue. To me, it’s a civil rights issue. I’ll be honest, though, it’s not on the top 10 list of the things that my constituents care about. I think that these rules in the Senate are broken, and I’ve thought that for a long time. I’m very supportive of reform efforts and, you know, frankly my support for reform efforts is independent of any pieces of legislation that come before the Senate over the course of 2021. I just think that the filibuster is fundamentally anti-democratic. It makes it really hard for voters to hold us accountable and, you know, going back to, you know, the first year that I showed up to the Senate, I’ve been supportive of reform.
Again, I think we can come up with a compromise here that can get 60 votes. I’ve had a lot of conversations with Republicans. I still remain optimistic about it on--about being able to get a bipartisan coalition, at least on this issue.
MS. ALEMANY: Do you feel, though, that you’re moving towards calling to join your colleagues in wanting to eliminate the filibuster?
SEN. MURPHY: Well, maybe I haven’t sort of sent out the press release in the way that my colleagues have because I’ve been a proponent of reforming the filibuster for a long time. So, I’m certainly going to be part of any effort to reform the filibuster. Since I got here, I have believed that it is not in the best interests of the country to require a supermajority in either chamber to be able to pass legislation.
MS. ALEMANY: So still reform and not eliminate. Just making note of that. But the NCAA--
SEN. MURPHY: I would--yeah, no, I would--you’re right. If you’re asking for that distinction, I would start with reform. I can certainly be persuaded on a question of elimination. But I don’t think it hurts to, you know, begin with more incremental changes.
MS. ALEMANY: The NCAA talks a lot about guardrails when they’re talking about changing their rules that would allow their athletes to be compensated. Do you want to require any financial literacy courses or any sort of guardrails as a part of the change in policy?
SEN. MURPHY: Well whatever guardrails they’re going to propose for student athletes, they should be willing to apply to coaches as well. I don’t really understand why Nick Saban is able to go out and make millions of dollars off of Aflac commercials with no requirements for financial literacy training and a different standard is applied to students. I frankly, you know, think that what the NCAA probably means by guardrails is a limitation on the amount of money that students are able to glean such that the lion’s share can be reserved for coaches, boosters, athletic and college sports industry executives.
And my worry is that the NCAA is not interested in sharing a serious share of the revenue with students. And so, while they will talk about these guardrails in terms of student safety and student well-being, I just haven’t seen a lot of evidence to suggest that that’s their end goal. I worry that they will use these guardrails to simply limit the financial rewards to students so that the reward can go to folks who right now are enjoying most of the upside.
MS. ALEMANY: And you have recently touched on the idea that you thought that the NCAA is no longer fit to oversee this process. They actually just blew a self-imposed deadline this last January to update their rules. They’ve been dragging their feet for years now really. Who do you think is best fit to oversee this, and do you think it’s a responsibility that should ultimately be taken away from the NCAA?
SEN. MURPHY: I think the NCAA is in a very difficult position. They have very little power. And to the extent the NCAA doesn’t act, it is not likely because individuals in the NCAA’s leadership don’t want to act. It’s because they cannot form a consensus position amongst their members.
And remember, the NCAA’s members include tiny division three schools like the one that I went to and big Power 5 schools. In football, the Power 5 has essentially, you know, taken the NCAA out of regulation setting by creating their own rules for how they spend money and how they recruit athletes. So, I don’t think the NCAA’s in a position right now to be able to achieve consensus. And as I said, you know, whether it be on students’ financial rights, whether it be on addressing concussions in football, the NCAA doesn’t have a great record of standing up for students. And so, I would not trust them to be the regulators of students’ compensation rights.
Again, I’m open to an organization like the FTC doing it, but I again would point out that the bill that Representative Trahan and I have introduced really doesn’t envision anybody regulating the right. It just says we should trust students to be able to make these endorsement deals for themselves. If you are a great singer or artist and you go to college, you can do whatever endorsement deals you want. Nobody regulates those endorsement deals just because you’re 18 or 19 years old. I’m not sure why we trust artists to be able to do endorsement deals, or entrepreneurs who are in college, but we don’t trust athletes. Sometimes I think that might have to do with the race of the athletes versus the race of the students who are proficient in other skills at universities.
MS. ALEMANY: And I asked this to Draymond, but I think it’s worth hearing your answer on this as well, because I don’t think it’s something that people would intuitively--a conclusion that some people, perhaps White people wouldn’t come to themselves, which is, you know, the intersection of this issue of compensating student athletes and racial justice. How has that been a part of your calculus when writing this legislation?
SEN. MURPHY: I don’t think you can avoid the fact that the vast majority, 80-90 percent of the adults who are getting rich off of college athletics are White men. And the majority of the workers, the individuals who are actually providing the labor on the courts or on the field in the moneymaking programs are African American. I think there is a civil rights element to this discussion. This idea that White adults are telling these African American student athletes that they should just be okay with the scholarship and they should stop bothering people for more, we don’t do that in any other industry. We don’t cap the wages of high talent employees or workers in any other industry besides this one. And I can’t help but think that it has something to do with the fact that the haves financially in college sports are White and the have nots financially in college sports are Black.
MS. ALEMANY: And what about the idea of having the NCAA provide reparations to students over the past few decades since really the NCAA’s, you know, been an organization to those who have lost out on opportunities to make profits? Draymond said this was something that he 1000 percent supported. Is this something that you would support moving forward with?
SEN. MURPHY: I don’t know. I’ll ask Draymond to make a case to me as to how that would work. I can see how that would be pretty hard to implement, hard to figure out, you know, where the NCAA would come up with the revenue to implement a system like that. So, I haven’t thought about it a lot. Frankly, I think first you have to fix the problem for existing athletes and future athletes. So, let’s tackle that question first. Once we’ve turned the corner and gotten some agreement on revenue sharing with existing athletes, then maybe we can talk about whether there’s room, ability and mechanism to compensate prior athletes.
MS. ALEMANY: And my colleagues who were poring through your bill noticed a provision in the legislation that ensures institutions provide equitable opportunity for name, image, and likeness across gender and sports. I’m sure you saw the video of the NCAA women’s weight room. I’m wondering what you make of this situation.
SEN. MURPHY: Yeah, I mean, it was heartbreaking, you know, to see, you know, how thoughtless the NCAA was. I’m not sure how they thought they were going to get away with that, an entire weight room for male athletes and a weight rack for females. This bill to allow this broad compensation--right?--could be a absolute game changer for female athletes. And it’s one of the reasons that Lori Trahan, as a former high-level college athlete, is such a big believer in this unregulated right of endorsement deals for college athletes. For a lot of women, their highest potential earning years as athletes are in college because there aren’t the professional opportunities--at least in the United States--for soccer--female soccer players or even female basketball players. Their ability to be able to sign endorsement deals with shoe companies, or with summer camps while they’re in college, that often is their best opportunity in order to be able to reap a financial reward.
Of course, I think about the college athletes who play at the University of Connecticut. If they were able to do unlimited endorsement rights, the women’s players in UConn could probably make more money during their college career than they could as professional athletes. And I’m not sure why we decided to restrict that right and limit the ability to make money off of, you know, Paige Bueckers or any of her teammates to the coach and to the myriad of companies that are advertising at UConn’s women’s games. So, yeah, this is definitely a piece of legislation that will address the issue of gender equity in sports.
MS. ALEMANY: And, Senator Murphy, your staffers have just notified us that you are needed back on the Senate floor for votes. So, we’re going to have to cut this short. But thank you so much for joining us today. I appreciate your efforts.
SEN. MURPHY: All right, great. Thanks a lot.
MS. ALEMANY: Thanks, everyone, for tuning in with us for the past hour. Please check back with Washington Post Live again tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern for a very special conversation with Academy Award-nominated actor and screenwriter Sasha Baren Cohen.
Again, I’m Jackie Alemany. Thanks so much for watching the Washington Post Live.
[End recorded session.]