Today is “Selection Sunday” – the kick off for March Madness and that time of year when we all gather to see bracket busters, buzzer beaters and more memorable moments. This is also a time when the NCAA will heavily feature, promote, and make money off a number of student-athletes—an overwhelming number of them Black, and kids from low-income families. Athletes that according to the NCAA, should be treated as prison labor.1
That’s right, just last month, the NCAA- in an effort to maximize their own profits and limit the ability of athletes to profit from their own images- filed a motion with the court arguing that the 13th amendment should be applied to college students playing sports. The 13th amendment forbids slavery and involuntary servitude, “except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,” a loophole which has since been exploited to sustain our criminal justice system by targeting Black communities today2. The NCAA is pushing this insulting argument to keep what amounts to billions of dollars of advertising from sponsors like Coca-Cola3. Students across the nation are demanding the NCAA to treat them fairly but it is clear that money takes precedent over students. It is time to tell Coca-Cola to withdraw funding from the NCAA until they agree to pay student-athletes.
The NCAA is trafficking in a tradition of racist laws criminalizing Black people preventing better treatment and wages in America4. Black codes after the Civil War forced Black people to work as sharecroppers and restricted movement, and the modern criminal justice system targeting Black communities5. Funding from corporations like Coca-Cola provides the rationale and resources for their exploitation. The NCAA exploits student-athletes and reinforces the system of exploitation Black people must face throughout the nation. Only through the active support of companies like Coca-Cola can the NCAA continue to push arguments that support our current system of incarceration and continued exploitation of students.
The comparison between prisoners and athletes shines a light on the way the policy against player pay is rooted in our larger system of exploitation. Coca-Cola should not be allowed to continue to profit from this exploitation of Black athletes. They are building on precedents currently targeting Black communities throughout the nation.
While supporting the NCAA with funding as a corporate sponsor Coca-Cola has also positioned themselves as a corporation concerned with their social responsibility touting their “perfect score” in the corporate equality index6. Coca-Cola has even spoken directly to the issue of unpaid/slave labor since accusations of the practice have been made overseas7. Coca-Cola has promised to reform any practices forced labor practices associated with their company touting their “human rights due diligence tools”8. Why would this not include the student-athletes exploited by their partners at the NCAA? We will not let Coca-Cola have it both ways. We are joining together to tell Coca-Cola, to end their support for the NCAA unless they agree to pay players. We must tell Coca-Cola that support for the NCAA is not acceptable, while they make dollars off of the back of Black athletes. With our collective voices, we can send a message to the Coca-Cola that we are watching and will not accept support for exploitation.
- “The NCAA Says Student-Athletes Shouldn’t Be Paid Because the 13th Amendment Allows Unpaid Prison Labor,” The Intercept, 2-22-2018, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/25767?t=10&akid=9684%2E1174326%2EYFz5R6
- “The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons,” The Sentencing Project, 6-14-2016, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/25768?t=12&akid=9684%2E1174326%2EYFz5R6
- “The NCAA’s new March Madness TV deal will make them a billion dollars a year,” SB Nation, 4-12-2016, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/25769?t=14&akid=9684%2E1174326%2EYFz5R6
- “From Indentured Servitude to Racial Slavery,” PBS, http://act.colorofchange.org/go/25770?t=16&akid=9684%2E1174326%2EYFz5R6
- “The Black Codes and Why They Matter Today,” ThoughtCo., 12-12-2017, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/25771?t=18&akid=9684%2E1174326%2EYFz5R6
- ‘Coca-Cola Again Receives Perfect Score on Corporate Equality Index,” Coca-Cola, 12-12-2016, http://act.colorofchange.org/go/25772?t=20&akid=9684%2E1174326%2EYFz5R6
- “Brazilian Coca-Cola Manufacturer Accused of Slave Labor,” TeleSur, 8-26-2016, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/26188?t=22&akid=9684%2E1174326%2EYFz5R6
- “Leading Through Change: Child Labor, Forced Labor and Land Rights,” Coca-Cola, 3-16-2015, http://act.colorofchange.org/go/26189?t=24&akid=9684%2E1174326%2EYFz5R6