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Column: Time for college players to demand justice

Column: Time for college players to demand justice

Hey, major college football player. Can you give us a few minutes of your time?

Don't worry about drawing the attention of your school administrators. They're too busy scurrying off to a new conference or lining up some exorbitant television deal to notice what we're about to discuss.

You're getting ripped off. Big time.

Have you considered a strike? Really, I'm not kidding

Oh sure, you're getting a college education out of the deal, but that's not even close to being fair. While you're out there busting your butt every day, the guys in suits are padding their coffers with your efforts.

What you guys need is someone like Marvin Miller, the late, great baseball union chief who died this week. Someone who can drop some knowledge about just how badly you're getting hosed. Someone to get you organized. Someone with the guts to say, ``Play fair, or we're walking.''

Yep, walk.

While the last thing we need is another labor dispute in sports, there may be no greater miscarriage of economic fairness than what's going on amid the ivy-covered columns of higher education.

``There's a reason we call it higher education,'' said Ellen Staurowsky, a professor in the Department of Sport Management at Drexel University in Philadelphia. ``It's supposed to aspire to higher ideals, to try to do what's best from a social justice point of view. It's such a shame for higher education to have a system in place that has really exploited the athletes in a way that is not defensible.''

Think that college degree makes it defensible? Not even close.

Oh sure, a school such as Georgia might fork over around $40,000 a year to pay for your room, board and tuition, but let's do some quick math and see how you're making out.

Say a football program provides 85 scholarships a year. Multiply that by what they're spending on each of you, and it comes out to $3.4 million.

So, what does the school get out of this?

Well, let's look again at how the Bulldogs are making out.

According to Forbes, which does an annual ranking of the nation's most valuable programs, Georgia turned a nifty little profit of $53 million on football last year. That figure will only rise as leagues expand into super conferences, television deals keep hurtling toward the stratosphere, and the suits figure out how much more they can make off a playoff system.

A four-team postseason starts in 2014, and ESPN has already signed on for a dozen years. You know it's just a matter of time before the four-team playoff become an eight-team affair, then an eight-team endeavor morphs into a 16-team version. Why not? With labor costs so low, schools would be foolish not to add a few more playoff rounds and cram a few more millions into their already bloated accounts.

If that cuts into your time for classwork and taking final exams, so be it.

Maybe you haven't gotten the memo yet, but our colleges and universities aren't all that concerned about providing an education that will actually enhance your life after football. They tout tougher academic standards and improved graduation rates, but they're mainly concerned about keeping you eligible to take the field.

That's where your real value lies.

When you look around the classroom, you're likely to see many of your teammates. That's not mere coincidence. Last year, The Associated Press found that schools continue to be adept at a tactic known as ``clustering,'' where they put a bunch of you in the same class, one they figure will make it easier for you to pass. They probably didn't bother asking if you were actually interested in that field of study.

Even with clustering and all the extra tutoring they provide, three out of 10 football players still fail to earn a degree. Better hope you're good enough to make it to the NFL. And if you are, you'll be in for a real eye-opening experience. While the stadiums and media coverage might seem largely on par with what you just left behind, there is one big difference.

The paycheck.

Yep, in the NFL, they actually pay you to play.

At that point, it might occur to you, ``Hey, why didn't I get a paycheck for the last four years?''

Good question.

A few folks are on your side. South Carolina's Steve Spurrier suggested that he and his coaching colleagues, who also make millions off you, reach into their own wallets to provide a little somethin', somethin' for the help. His plan was derided as folly, the ramblings of an aging coach who doesn't really understand how the system works.

Actually, he knows exactly how it works. But you're young, so we'll let you in on a little secret: People in power are real reluctant to give up their loot, and they'll go to great lengths to tell others why they don't deserve any of it.

Just last week, after Maryland was lured away from its historic association with the Atlantic Coast Conference by the promise of more riches in the Big Ten, another coach floated the idea of giving the players a cut.

As it stands now, the NCAA won't even allow schools to provide a little financial assistance to help your family travel to a bowl game, the bowl game you made possible.

``It would be great to be able to take care of their families or guardian, to be able to help them fly to a bowl game,'' Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald said. ``And take some of the money and allow them to get more money from bowl gifts and things of that nature that they've earned.''

A nice gesture, but that's only the tip of this dollar-shaped iceberg.

The NCAA, which senses that you might be getting a little upset with the current arrangement, is considering whether to allow $2,000 stipends for athletes.

Don't be fooled. They're just trying to buy you off.

``It's notable that while coaches have access to representatives who negotiate those multiyear contracts, the athletes are expressly denied that same kind of representation,'' Staurowsky said. ``It speaks to just how big of a conflict there is.''

So, let's try this.

Hit up Twitter. And Facebook. And any of those other Web sites you kids hang out on.

Start talking about this issue.

Who knows? If social media can help overturn entire governments, maybe it can bring about real change in college athletics.

We've even got a hash tag for your cause: ``treatusfair.''

If they won't, tell them you're walking.

---

Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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USA Today Sports Images

Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

PODCAST: WIZARDS MAKE A FREE AGENT SIGNING

The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

RELATED: DURANT MAKES HUGE DONATION TO PG COUNTY SCHOOLS

Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Brooks Orpik

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.