Super Bowl

Tailbacks Just Want To Be Free

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The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay yesterday that prevents former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett from entering the upcoming National Football League draft while the court weighs its review of Clarett's attempt to rip up the weird rule that says players can't go pro until three years after graduating from high school. This reaction from NFL lawyer Gregg Levy caught my eye:

He said the way the appeals court was leaning was consistent with labor law that protects bargaining rights in many professions.

"Thank goodness that employers and their unions can agree on eligibility requirements for pilots, nurses, truckers and other skilled laborers and have the opportunity to bargain collectively over those issues," he said.

Sure, except that tailbacks aren't exactly flying planes, saving lives, or driving dangerous equipment while hopped up on pills. Forcing 18-year-old football players to attend college and make millions for their schools without being paid strikes me as one of the less seemly arrangements in the wide world of sports.

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  1. I disagree, Evan, since college football was the main attraction for many years. Until rather recently college stars were the most famous athletes in the country.

    My favorite complaint about big time college sports is the one wherein liberal-type people decry the massive exploitation of college football/basketball players. After all, the universities are making millions! Millions! And where do those millions go? Well they’re lining the pockets of those fat cats who play water polo, run track, or row. (And increasingly paying for disturbingly palatial revenue-sports facilities, granted.) At the same time these people defend title IX to death and support the WNBA as just as entertaining as its actually interesting male analogue. Which makes it very easy to discount their opinions.

  2. I agree, though this problem seems to have more to do with the sleaziness of college ball than the NFL’s draft eligibility requirements.

    Would you agree that a large amount of college ball’s sleaziness is the result of the NFL refusing to allow players who don’t really care about college play for pay?

  3. Hmmmmmmm…….mmmmmmmaybe.

  4. For libertarians it should come down to this: Should the NFL, as a private association, get to make whatever requirements it deems necessary for entry into the league? Um, yeah they should.

    If it were up to me, I’d let anyone play regardless of their age. But I don’t own or make decisions for the NFL so it doesn’t really matter what I or anyone else thinks.

  5. For libertarians it should come down to this: Should the NFL, as a private association,
    ….
    be allowed to discriminate against potentially qualified individuals.

  6. I don’t think the “team desire v. the league desire” argument is meaningful. Not only do most of the coaches think younger players aren’t ready for the game, the owners have all willingly signed on to a specific agreement to set an age limit. The only real disagreement is a private organization (the NFL) vs. folks who want to use government to their advantage in all cases (Mo Clarett et al). The NFL should have the right to do as it pleases.

  7. One other thing, I was watching ESPN last night and one of the trainers had an excellent description of the difference between kids playing basketball (or soccer, for that matter), and football. He said, “basketball is a contact sport. Ours is a collision sport.” Frequently the players are hitting each other as hard as they can with 300+ pounds of body weight. It takes more to play football than most other sports.

  8. I am not arguing whether or not the player can play at the NFL level. A team can choose not to hire a player if they want. The player should be given the chance to join a team if they want each other.

    If the NFL can make any requirements they wish then would anyone object to the requirement that all Head Coaches be white?

  9. Who’s forcing him to go to college? Does this rule apply to NFL Europe? Or the CFL? The requirement is 3 years between graduating High School and turning pro in the NFL. If he doesn’t want to go to the NCAA, let him do something else while he waits. Not that the NCAA aren’t all sleazebags.

  10. If the NFL can make any requirements they wish then would anyone object to the requirement that all Head Coaches be white?

    Of course. I suspect everyone here would object to that requirement.

    Note the distinction between “object to” and “force to change at the point of a gun,” however.

  11. “My favorite complaint about big time college sports is the one wherein liberal-type people decry the massive exploitation of college football/basketball players. After all, the universities are making millions! Millions! And where do those millions go? Well they’re lining the pockets of those fat cats who play water polo, run track, or row. (And increasingly paying for disturbingly palatial revenue-sports facilities, granted.)”

    You’re preaching to the choir here, Brian. I go to university in Montreal. Canadian universities have no athletic scholarships. This a minor but significant source of the Brain Drain; cheaper though tuition is in Canada (although outside of Quebec, Canadian universities are catching up with U.S. state schools fast), a lot of smart kids who are good at sports can go to decent schools stateside for less than they would in Canada, if they get some money to play on the hockey or rugby (or some other sport Canadians are better or as good at as Americans). Canadians who go to college in the U.S. generally don’t come back.

  12. If the NFL can make any requirements they wish then would anyone object to the requirement that all Head Coaches be white?

    Of course. I suspect everyone here would object to that requirement.

    Note the distinction between “object to” and “force to change at the point of a gun,” however.

    Well said, well said. This is the prime argument that leftist blatantly ignore in virtually all of their political arguments, for the simple reason that there isn’t an adequate response. The folks who want to use government as the solution to every problem they see as a social ill never, ever put it in these most basic terms, and that should always be the first step.

  13. Ricky,

    “The player should be given the chance to join a team if they want each other.”

    But that’s a violation of the agreement the owners signed (that Matthew’s post at 4:33 aptly points out). If they want to renegotiate, fine. But the government shouldn’t force them to.

    “If the NFL can make any requirements they wish then would anyone object to the requirement that all Head Coaches be white?”

    I’m sure a hell of a lot of people would object to it. The public backlash that would ensue and the calls for boycotts would prevent the NFL from ever doing that. But yeah, if they really wanted to, of course they should be allowed.

  14. JENNIFER, back when the great Bud Wilkinson was in his prime as the head football coach at Oklahoma (1950s) it’s reputed he attended a banquet honoring the newly installed President of the University….BW’s quote, “He’s a fine man, the kind of man who help us create a university which our football team can be proud of”

    It’s not much different today at many unis. The football programs are indeed minor league teams for the NFL.

  15. Thank you David and Matthew. I hadn’t thought the issue through. It sounds nice that all people should be on equal footing when applying for a job but an employer should be able to make any requirements they wish for a position.

  16. “Forcing 18-year-old football players to attend college and make millions for their schools without being paid strikes me as one of the less seemly arrangements in the wide world of sports.”

    I agree, though this problem seems to have more to do with the sleaziness of college ball than the NFL’s draft eligibility requirements.

  17. It’s far more seemly than government forcing private businesses to include those that they wish to exclude.

  18. This really is not about government forcing private business to include (hire) anyone as much as it is allowing everyone to apply for the job. Each player must still be drafted. If a team thinks a 20 year old is good enough to be drafted why should he not be allowed to play?

  19. Universities are supposed to be institutions of higher learning, not pro-football training camps.

  20. It’s always struck me as a ludicrous example of taxpayers subsidising private businesses that the NFL gets others to completely underwrite the cost of developing players.
    In Europe – where we play a much better game, ie soccer – most professional clubs spend millions of GBPs on their own academies which players attend full-time from 16.
    It’s not unusual for players – eg Own and Rooney for England – to feature in international matches at 18.
    Is an unwillingness to foot the cost of this the reason why the NFL is against players skipping college?

  21. It’s always struck me as a ludicrous example of taxpayers subsidising private businesses that the NFL gets others to completely underwrite the cost of developing players.
    In Europe – where we play a much better game, ie soccer – most professional clubs spend millions of GBPs on their own academies which players attend full-time from 16.
    It’s not unusual for players – eg Owen and Rooney for England – to feature in international matches at 18.
    Is an unwillingness to foot the cost of this the reason why the NFL is against players skipping college?

  22. It’s always struck me as a ludicrous example of taxpayers subsidising private businesses that the NFL gets others to completely underwrite the cost of developing players.
    In Europe – where we play a much better game, ie soccer – most professional clubs spend millions of GBPs on their own academies which players attend full-time from 16.
    It’s not unusual for players – eg Owen and Rooney for England – to feature in international matches at 18.
    Is an unwillingness to foot the cost of this the reason why the NFL is against players skipping college?

  23. The disagreement between M.T. and Matthew illustrates a paradox inherent in dealing with pro sports. Each team is technically an individual business. Yet they all hire a league to tell them what to do. I’m all for letting “them” do as they please, but where does the effective sovereignty reside, with the individual teams or with the league? Plus I believe there’s various aspects of government involvement already in effect that further muddies the waters, labor laws and the like….

  24. “It’s always struck me as a ludicrous example of taxpayers subsidising private businesses that the NFL gets others to completely underwrite the cost of developing players.”

    Given the untold gazillions in college ball,I think it would be more accurate to suggest that it is the NFL that is subsidizing American public education. Not actually accurate, mind you, but more so.

  25. With all that money, he can pay someone to think for him.

  26. What’s the difference between a university’s great, say, Law school and another college’s cinsistently ranked football team? They’re both just programs that the universities offer to prospective students. I don’t really get where this distate for big time college sports comes from.

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