Don’t Give a Free Pass to Either NCAA or State Exploitation

The most talked about play of the college basketball season so far happened on Wednesday night as Duke’s Zion Williamson injured his knee after one of his shoes split open. It was less than a minute into the game when the star forward fell to the hardwood. Williamson was forced to leave the game against arch-rival North Carolina and did not return. Reports are that he suffered a knee sprain and is listed as “day to day.”

The build up to Wednesday night’s matchup was as intense as it has ever been in the storied rivalry. Ticket prices were rivaling that of the most recent Super Bowl. Celebrities, including former president Barack Obama, were on hand to see the contest. The reason for the hype was primarily Williamson, as the uniquely talented freshman is expected to go number one overall in this year’s NBA Draft. Alas, these high paying customers only got to see him for a short period of time before his night was over.

More than anything, this incident is shedding light on the absurdity to which college basketball conducts itself. A player who was the biggest reason for the ticket price and television ratings surge damaged his body while receiving no compensation for the revenue he was clearly responsible for. There is currently an ongoing debate within the sports media as to whether Williamson should even return to Duke’s lineup since he can’t possibly raise his draft stock any higher and could risk further injury. When the organization that a player plays under won’t allow their athletes to get paid, continuing to play under these circumstances might be too big of a risk.

One of the more interesting aspects of these opinions on Williamson’s future is how many on the political left are calling out the NCAA and questioning their unwillingness to financially compensate the athletes that comprise it. For example, The Ringer’s Roger Sherman was very critical of the current system in his latest article and lamented the situation that leads to elite athletes being exploited in this way. Sherman admitted in an NFL article he wrote back in September that he is a socialist. Yet his arguments criticizing the inability of collegiate athletes to profit off of their talent are intensely capitalistic.

The Ringer’s embrace of a socialist philosophy does not end with Sherman. The website has published numerous articles offering glowing praise of democratic socialist congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. As many of us know, she and others are in favor of dramatically raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Many who champion her cause have cited highly taxed European nations as a model for the United States to follow.

However, if one’s disapproval of the NCAA seizing all of the revenue created by its talent is so great, then why is the seizure of wealth by the state something to celebrate? Why does the government get to limit compensation via taxation if the NCAA’s prevention of compensation is so wrong? Why do those who desire the state to seize more private wealth not see the similarities to a collegiate cartel that seizes all of that wealth? Are the government and the NCAA really that different when put into this context?

While it is true that the NCAA prevents all wealth from getting into the hands of their athletes while governments take a certain percentage (based on income bracket), it isn’t clear why a lesser degree of income extraction is so much more virtuous. After all, if total income confiscation by an entity is seen as complete exploitation or even a form of slavery by some, then at what reduced level of confiscation does one cease to be exploited or enslaved? This question conjures up Robert Nozick’s “Tale of the Slave” in which he takes the reader through nine steps of slavery conditions that gradually improve. It starts with the master collecting 100% of the slave’s wages and ends with 3/7 of his wages being taken by a less cruel ruler. But the final question is still, “at what stage do you cease being a slave?”

The current tax policy put forward by Cortez and championed by others would raise the top tax rate to 70% after the ten million dollar mark is reached. Should Williamson become the NBA superstar many predict that he will be, he will have no problem reaching this number at some point in his career. However, the label that the political left throws around so frequently as a target for scorn is the dreaded “one percent.” The threshold for arriving in this exclusive club is not 10 million dollars but actually slightly less than $450,000. If we want to trot out the Scandinavian nations that the progressives seem to be so fond of, the top tax rate (that is significantly higher than that of the US) kicks in if a worker makes only around one and a half times the national average (roughly a $70,000 a year salary in the US). Here in America, a worker has to make eight times the national average in order to be subject to a lower top level tax rate.

So no matter if politicians want to soak those who make 10 million plus, the one percent or make this country more like northern Europe, the elite of the NBA are going to take a hit. As it stands right now, Williamson and other future NBA stars in the college game are having all of the money they accumulate confiscated by a ruling entity. Once they are out from under that rule and able to profit off of their talents, the ruling entity known as the state will lay claim to a sizable portion of what they are compensated with. Just like the NCAA claims that the benefits of attending college justify its withholding of any payment to their athletes, the government will claim that the benefits it bestows on society justify any and all taxation they wish to impose. Those on the left who advocate for collegiate athlete compensation and bemoan NCAA exploitation are oblivious to how the state lays its claim to privately obtained wealth using a similar farce.

No, the Government Doesn’t Get Credit for a Safe Super Bowl

Thanks to a deal that was reached late last month, the Federal Government’s shutdown has temporarily ended. President Donald Trump has signed a resolution to reopen the government for three weeks. Thousands of federal workers will now receive back pay for the pay checks that they missed due to the shutdown. The president and congress will now have until February 15th to arrive at a more permanent budget.

One of the concerns during the shutdown was the effect it would have on the February 3rd Super Bowl in Atlanta. Had the three week deal not been reached, many would be wondering about the shutdown’s influence on both security and efficiency of that event. After all, many TSA agents weren’t showing up for work as a result of not being able to get paid. In addition, many government agencies collaborate with both the stadium authorities and local law enforcement during Super Bowl weekend.

But how much of a crisis would this have been had the government shutdown remained through this past weekend? Why does a huge event like the Super Bowl require such involvement by the feds in the first place? Is there another way to have security that is not dependent upon the government’s ability to have a current budget? If so, what would that kind of security even look like?

One of the most significant situations facing the huge influx of people into the Atlanta area was the issue of the TSA at Atlanta’s major airport. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International is statistically the busiest airport in the world by measure of passenger traffic. Had the government remained shut down, Super Bowl weekend may have turned into a disaster due to a shortage of TSA agents. However, things didn’t have to be this way. Over 20 airports throughout the United States have switched to private security. Not only are these employees getting paid regardless of governmental situations, but they are often better at ensuring safety and quicker at processing passengers. Unfortunately, Atlanta was not one of the cities that switched to private airport security.

Another potential problem that was thought to impact The Big Game was the collaboration between federal authorities and local or private security. Considering that the Secret Service, FBI, TSA, ICE and Customs and Border Protection all play a role in stadium security and some haven’t been getting paid, concerns over personnel appear to have been warranted. Though it’s not clear why the NFL should be so reliant on the Federal Government for the security of their biggest game in the first place. Shouldn’t a billion dollar organization like the NFL be able to provide for its own security independent of government agents?

In addition, if some sort of attack did happen during the Super Bowl (God forbid) with the government still in shutdown mode, the politicians and most of the media would be the first to blame it on the lack of a fully functional government. However, if the same attack happened in the absence of a shutdown, how much blame would the government really shoulder for it? Sure, they would have to answer some difficult questions. But the likely culprit would be the alleged “underfunding” of the failed government agencies that we trusted to protect us. Thus the state is always covered either way.

As is often the case, government will take credit for when a potentially bad situation doesn’t end in the disaster that many feared it would. But it would be wise to remember why the situation existed in the first place. If events like the Super Bowl weren’t so reliant on government for basic security, then a government shutdown wouldn’t be the crisis that many allege that it is. Hopefully this will be something to keep in mind when government manufactures their next self-imposed catastrophe.