John Oliver rips the NCAA for not paying athletes

In a 20-minute segment on the eve of the NCAA’s marquee event, the NCAA Tournament, “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver roasted the NCAA for their money-grab while still refusing to pay the athletes.

Oliver started with the heavily sponsored NCAA tournament and went beyond, ripping the NCAA for their hypocrisy of how they justify their stance by promoting the notion of the “student-athlete” and trying to make it seem as though only a few schools make money off of sports.

Among the criticisms Oliver discussed were:

  • Everything in the NCAA tournament is branded, including the ladder used to cut down the nets after the championship game. This leads to more than $US1.0 billion in ad revenue, more than the Super Bowl (“Pretty soon, the only thing left to sponsor will be the sponsorships themselves.”).
  • NCAA President Mark Emmert consistently supporting the position of not paying players because they are athletes, not employees (“The only other people that say ‘they’re not employees’ that much are people who run illegal sweatshops out of their basements.”).
  • The hypocrisy of saying athletes are “paid” in the form of an education even though they have to commit so much time to their team and sport (“Paying top college athletes with an education is kind of like telling a full-time nurse, ‘there’s no salary for this job. We’re just going to be giving you free trumpet lessons, which you will be too busy to do. But if you don’t learn to play the trumpet, you’re fired.'”).
  • The pettiness of many NCAA rules which have led to at least one player saying he would go to sleep hungry (“‘Hunger Games’ should take place annually in a dystopian future, not every March, sponsored by Coca-Cola, on CBS.”).
  • The NCAA claiming only a few schools make money off of athletics even though many schools haveĀ  extravagent spending habits (e.g. facilities, coaches’ salaries) just to keep from turning a profit (“I never thought I’d say this, but Alabama, stop showing off your ostentatious wealth, OK?”)
  • Very few college athletes actually go pro (“If you are an athlete that dreams of being a (Minnesota) Viking or a (Washington)Wizard, you probably have about the same chance of becoming an actual viking or an actual wizard.”)

Oliver ended the segment by summing up the biggest issue, that everybody is making money except the players:

“Nobody is saying they need to be paid millions, or hundreds of thousands, or the same amount, or even that every school has to pay every athlete. But to everyone zero, when the kid selling their jersey at the campus bookstore gets $US10 an hour, seems a little bit strange. And if it truly is about the romance of amateurism, that’s fine. Give up the sponsorships, and the TV deals, stop paying the coaches, and have the teams run by an asthmatic anthropology professor with a whistle.”

Here is the full video:

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