09.15.20

Murray Calls College Sports System a “Glaring Example of Racial and Economic Inequity” and Demands Fair Compensation for College Athletes

At HELP hearing, Murray highlights how the college sports industry exploits athletes—many of whom are Black—while coaches and NCAA officials make millions

 

In her opening remarks, Murray urged Congress to ensure that college athletes are fairly compensated, are protected by health and safety standards, have access to health care, and receive a quality education

 

Murray: “For too long, the $15 billion college sports industry has been a glaring example of economic and racial inequity—one where the majority of athletes in Division 1 revenue-generating sports are Black, and mostly white coaches and NCAA officials make millions off the labor of young college athletes.”

 

***Watch Senator Murray’s Opening Remarks HERE***

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Committee, called the college sports industry a system of exploitation and urged Congress to finally protect the rights of college athletes.

 

“For too long, the $15 billion college sports industry has been a glaring example of economic and racial inequity—one where the majority of athletes in Division 1 revenue-generating sports are Black, and mostly white coaches and NCAA officials make millions off the labor of young college athletes,” said Senator Murray in her opening remarks. “Despite the fact that college athletes bring in millions of dollars for colleges each year and stimulate local economies across the country, they are prohibited from receiving a penny in compensation.”

 

In her remarks, Senator Murray highlighted the stories of college athletes, describing how athletes struggle to afford basic necessities like food, to manage academic course-loads while balancing grueling practice schedules, and to deal with injuries without access to long-term health care. Senator Murray urged Congress to address these injustices by ensuring that college athletes get fair compensation, are protected by health and safety standards, have access to affordable health care, and receive a quality education.  

 

“It’s clear the status quo isn’t working. It only serves those at the top. The NCAA should have addressed these issues long ago but failed to do so,” continued Senator Murray. “Congress must face this challenge head-on and offer college athletes solutions that end this current system of exploitation and replace it with a system which values college athletes’ voices.”

   

Senator Murray also called once again to start negotiations on a fourth COVID relief package, noting that college athletes are currently facing unpresented challenges due to the threat of COVID on college campuses.

 

“For students and for everyone suffering through this pandemic—I just want to note that we can’t wait weeks or months for another real relief package. We have more work to do—a lot of it. So I hope in the days to come we can finally get started on serious negotiations to reach an agreement that meets the dire needs we’re hearing about from the families and communities we serve,” said Senator Murray.

 

Watch Senator Murray’s opening remarks HERE.

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks below, as prepared for delivery.

    

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you to the witnesses for joining us today for this hearing.

 

“First, I want to say I've been in close contact with local leaders on the ground as families across Washington state and the West Coast are dealing with devastating fires that are wiping out communities and damaging air quality.

 

“I want to thank the many courageous first responders and firefighters who are risking their lives to save families and communities.

 

“I remain committed to doing all that I can to ensure that local fire departments, officials and communities have everything they need to fight these fires and begin the long road to recovery.

 

“Mr. Chairman, I’d like to take a moment first to acknowledge your many decades of leadership on a vast number of issues, including on today’s topic, which I know you have always been focused on.

 

“Throughout our time in the Senate and our six years running this Committee together, you have often helped the Committee and its members in leading us in important discussions on critical issues facing families across this country. 

 

“I speak for all of my members when I thank you for the manner in which you have partnered with me to run this Committee as we look into issues such a Name, Image, Likeness and many others. 

 

“It is easy, especially now, to just go into our respective corners and not have a discussion about big problems facing the country and it demonstrates your commitment to this institution and the importance of dialogue that even now you are facilitating bipartisan discussions on topics like these.

 

“This Committee benefits enormously from your experiences as a governor, President of the University of Tennessee, and Education Secretary and while I know January is still a ways off—I want to again start off by thanking you for all your great work on this committee and in the Senate.

 

“I have to say our work together really means a lot to me, because—while we have different backgrounds, different perspectives, and different styles—you and I and our great members of this Committee share a commitment to getting things done for the families we represent and for our country.

 

“We both want to continue the important role this Committee and the Senate play and we will truly miss you helping drive discussions like the one we are having today. 

 

“Again and again over the years, you’ve come to work looking to solve problems, not score political points.

 

“So I know I speak for all the Committee members—on both sides of the aisle—when I say you will be greatly missed.

 

“There is no better proof of your determination to work in a bipartisan way and do whatever it takes to find common ground than the countless bills we worked on together—and this Committee was successful in passing—including the 21st Century Cures Act, the Every Student Succeeds Act and Perkins CTE, as well as several bills to address the opioids epidemic.

 

“These laws didn’t just tackle big issues—they also managed to get broad bipartisan support from our colleagues. And millions of families for years to come will benefit from your work.

 

“And I’m glad today to have the opportunity to talk about college athletes—which I know is personal to you as a former track and field star. Mr. Chairman, as you and I have discussed before, the issue of compensating college athletes is something you’ve long been focused on, and I’m glad we are having this conversation today.

 

“I’d also like to thank Senator Murphy for pushing for us to have this discussion today and to colleagues off the Committee, such as Senator Booker, for their work and leadership on this issue.

 

“This summer, our nation finally began to reckon with police brutality and the pervasiveness of systemic racism in our country—a reality which so many have lived with their entire lives. 

 

“One of the many issues we are overdue to address is the exploitation of college athletes, which has profound racial and economic justice implications. 

 

“For too long, the $15 billion college sports industry has been a glaring example of economic and racial inequity—one where the majority of athletes in Division 1 revenue-generating sports are Black, and mostly white coaches and NCAA officials make millions off the labor of young college athletes.

 

“Despite the fact that college athletes bring in millions of dollars for colleges each year and stimulates local economies across the country, they are prohibited from receiving a penny in compensation.

 

“Now, there are some people who say a ‘free education’ is a privilege; compensating athletes will hinder their education; or paying college athletes will be the end of college sports as we know it.

 

"But the stories I’ve heard from many young athletes back in my home state of Washington about the inequity and abuse they’ve experienced show how our current system exploits young athletes—particularly young athletes of color—and must be reformed.

 

“I heard from a former all-star Black college athlete in Washington state who told me that before he went pro, he had to steal food from the cafeteria and grocery stores because he wasn’t allowed to work and couldn’t afford food.

 

“That is a tough thing for someone to share—but he wanted everyone to know just how difficult it can get for so many athletes.

 

“There are countless stories of college athletes who had their futures thrown into jeopardy because they got injured and weren’t guaranteed long-term affordable health care, and, in some instances, they might lose their scholarship and their chance at an education.

 

“College athletes are struggling to manage their academic course loads and grueling daily schedules filled with workouts, practices, and games, while also facing food and economic insecurity, while the NCAA and member schools enter into billion-dollar media deals, universities invest in luxury facilities, coaches receive million-dollar salaries, and so much more. 

 

“This is immoral and we shouldn’t accept it.


“I urge all my colleagues in the Senate to listen to the experiences of college athletes, particular college athletes of color, in their home states—because once you do, it’s impossible to deny that change is needed.

 

“There are a lot of ways Congress and other Committees can act to protect college athletes’ rights, and I’ll discuss some of them now.

 

“First and foremost, we need to make sure that college athletes are fairly compensated and an important first step forward on that issue is allowing athletes to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness—or NIL.

 

“And we must ensure that all athletes, men and women, get a fair share of the revenue they help to generate. 

 

But fair compensation is just one part of protecting the rights of college athletes. Especially now—as the COVID pandemic rages on—it’s crucial that we establish enforceable health and safety standards.

 

“And if an athlete gets injured while playing for their college, they should not be expected to deal with the medical or financial fallout on their own.

 

“We must ensure that college athletes are guaranteed affordable health care; and that colleges take responsibility for life-long health issues related to an injury.

 

“And we absolutely need to give college athletes the quality educational opportunities and support they deserve.

 

“Too many college athletes are being funneled into easy classes—sometimes even fake ones, simply don’t have the time to complete their coursework due to rigorous practice schedules, or aren’t finishing their degrees. And for Black athletes, graduation rates are significantly lower than white athletes.

 

“Just fifty-five percent of Black male athletes from the Power 5 conferences graduate within six years compared to seventy percent of all college athletes.

 

“This is, again, wrong and unacceptable.

 

“All college athletes should receive the academic support they need to complete a quality education and assurances their scholarships will not be revoked if they are  injured.

 

“It’s clear the status quo isn’t working. It only serves those at the top. The NCAA should have addressed these issues long ago but failed to do so.

 

“Congress must face this challenge head-on and offer college athletes solutions that end this current system of exploitation and replace it with a system which values college athletes’ voice.

 

“So thank you again Mr. Chairman, as well as, to each of witnesses for being with us today.

 

“And before I close, I just want to say, in addition to these injustices, right now, college athletes and their peers, are also dealing with a pandemic that has brought enormous uncertainty to higher education.

 

“For students and for everyone suffering through this pandemic—I just want to note that we can’t wait weeks or months for another real relief package. We have more work to do—a lot of it.

 

“So I hope in the days to come we can finally get started on serious negotiations to reach an agreement that meets the dire needs we’re hearing about from the families and communities we serve. Thank you.”

 

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