On our Oct. 16 conversation with NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the basketball legend (and author) said he's disturbed by the state of college athletics in the modern era. A towering player for the 1965 - 1969 U.C.L.A. Bruins, Abdul-Jabbar — then Lew Alcindor — used his basketball talents as a way to help him become the first member of his family with a college degree. The system today doesn't provide for that, he said.
"I think that people see having a sports career as an end in itself and it really isn't. So many young people that get the opportunity to go straight from high school, get to go from high school to professional athletics, and when their professional career is over, they have a hard time because they don't have the educational foundation to enable them to do other things. So I think that the athletes themselves are not getting the full benefit of what they should.
"The NCAA athletes are exploited, and they should get paid. So many of them, you have a situation where, let's say a young man goes to a college to play football and he gets hurt while he playing football. He can't continue to have a scholarship. his scholarship can be rescinded and there is no insurance program that will protect them, enable them to finish their college career. They went and held up their part of the deal and went to the school to do what they were asked to do and as soon as they get hurt, the school, you know reneges on its commitment. And so, there are a number of abuses like that that they don't sit well with me. I think that so many of the college athletes that make so much money — it's a $6 billion dollar a year industry. So many people see college athletics as a very benevolent extension of high school athletics. Where a quarterback and a cheerleader have a romance and celebrate their victory at the malt shop. That's not happening anymore. Those days are over. This is a business here. And making all that money and producing all that money and not getting a chance to participate in all the financial rewards is really exploitation.
"...The whole ideal of college representing a place where athletically and intellectually human beings can reach their highest peak, I think that should be the ideal and its gotten long way from there."
Is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar right? Should college athletes be paid for their work? Or is the system a pure place for amateur student athletes that would be tainted by more money? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, Tumblr and @OnPointRadio.
This program aired on October 16, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.