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Why I’m Behind the Athletes Bill of Rights

by michelle
Senator Cory Booker
NIL NETWORK INSIGHT

Recap: Senator Cory Booker discusses his football career at Stanford, why he thinks it’s so important for Congress to pass legislation protecting collegiate athletes, and his “athletes bill of rights”. He talks about the life of a student-athlete and previous instances where the NCAA fell short when asked to modify their rules.

Observations: The statistic that stuck out to me the most was when Booker disaggregated the NCAA graduation data and showed that only 56% of black male athletes graduate within six years. This stat, coupled with the low draft rate into the pros, means that there is an extraordinarily high number of athletes who generate millions of dollars for their program yet leave the school when their eligibility expires with no degree, no pro contract, and no dollars in their pockets. Part of Booker’s College Athlete Bill of Rights would allow athletes to retain their scholarship until they graduate with an undergrad degree, even if their eligibility has expired.

Read more on the Athlete Bill of Rights here. 

Athlete Tips & Takeaways:

  • The College Athlete Bill of Rights, introduced in December, would significantly change the landscape of collegiate athletics. Familiarize yourself with the bill and look for updates to it as this process continues.

Shaped by football as a young man, the author—the junior senator from New Jersey and a former Stanford tight end—is cosponsoring legislation to give athletes more protection.

BY SENATOR CORY BOOKER

I got into the college of my dreams because of a 4.0 and 1,600.

Not GPA and SAT, but yards per carry and receiving yards.

Well actually, that is a slight exaggeration. Forgive me—the older I get, the better I was.

I was, however, a high school All-America football player, earning a scholarship to play tight end at Stanford.

I would not be where I am today without football. I am not talking simply about what I do as a U.S. senator—though that, too—but who I am. I poured so much of my early life into a sport that returned to me gifts beyond my imagination. Football taught me about character, honor, leadership, discipline, grit and so much more. The men I played with, who coached me, believed in me, taught me and demanded from me, all shaped me in profound and indelible ways. I can never repay them or my sport for what it did for me; but I am on a mission to pay it forward and join with others to bring much-needed justice and fairness to college athletics.

Booker
Photo Illustration by SI Premedia; Courtesy of Stanford Athletics (Booker)

I came to see during my playing days, and in the years since, that the NCAA is an exploitative, de facto for-profit industry that takes advantage of college athletes, endangers their health and safety, robs many of them of their peak earning years, undermines their promise of a college education and often leaves them injured with a lifetime of out-of-pocket medical bills and no support to pay them.

College sports is a $14 billion industry that is significantly generated by the unpaid work of young people. While I came from a family able to support me during my college years, many athletes do not, and they struggle to meet the costs of going to school that are beyond what a scholarship covers. These athletes rack their heads to find creative ways to contribute to their families back home or scrape together money for a plane ticket home or for their parents to come see them play. And if they do something against the NCAA’s biased rules—like sell an old jersey—the penalties can be swift and brutal.

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