It’s All In The Numbers

Every year in college football there is the headline “NCAA INVESTIGATION” surrounding some sort of athlete that has stepped over the invisible line by profiting off of their own hard work and success. Recently in the news, Todd Gurley, a running back at the University of Georgia, has just returned to playing after sitting out the last four games of the college football season while being suspended for profiting on his own name. After learning that Gurley made $3000 for signing autographs and other memorabilia over the last couple years, the NCAA slapped him with the suspension that locked the student athlete off the field and kept him out of the lime light.

 

 

I say lime light because this was supposed to be Gurley’s year. After an outstanding 2013 campaign  where Gurley rushed for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns, Gurley had already surpassed his amazing season from the year before after only participating in 5 games into an 11 or 12 game season (depending on the success of his team). A Heisman candidate and sure NFL first round pick, Gurley was a superstar because of his hard work on and off the field.

Here is a video of Gurley during his 2013 season

But how does playing the sport you love amount to “hard work”? How does anyone deserve the celebrity status that comes with being an NCAA football superstar? As a former university football player myself, I understand the dedication it takes just to keep up with the team. Being a superstar on Gurley’s level on the other hand takes dedication to a whole other level. Think hours of practicing, watching game film, sweating in the gym, physiotherapy, walkthroughs, long bus rides, oh and on top of that the whole university thing too. To be great at football at the university and collegiate level, one has to immerse themselves in the lifestyle of their craft and dedicate their very being to pushing themselves to be better every day. The sacrifices that student athletes must endure are immense, but it’s all worth it for the glory of the school, right?

Here is a photo of Gurley

Well there’s just a few things to consider that might change your perspective on the matter. Gurley was suspended for 4 games because of $3000 dollars he received over 2 years for signing memorabilia. Simple math says that Gurley only made $1500 a year off his own name. Now compare that to what the NCAA makes of his name and the names of his peers. The University of Georgia made $74,989,418 off of it’s’ college football program in 2013 and that’s not even an anomaly. The University of Georgia was actually the 4th highest in revenue generated by their football program, falling behind the University of Alabama, Texas and Michigan who all earned greater than 80 million dollars with Texas leading the way at 103 million dollars.

I beg the question: how is it morally acceptable for the universities to be making such an incredible some of money off their players while preventing them from even signing their own name for money under fear of possible sanctions they might receive? The NCAA will argue that it keeps the spirit of the game pure at the collegiate level by allowing athletes to maintain their amateur status. After all, the athletes that participate are supposed to be there for their education and anything other than purest form of amateur sport would be wrong.

However, what I think is completely wrong is how these student athletes are viewed as anything but employees of the school. The average college football player spends 43.3 hours a week dedicated to improving himself as a “student athlete”. These “student athletes” works 3.3 hours more than the average worker and these “student athlete” contributes towards the $11 billion dollars that the NCAA makes on collegiate sports. Not only are they obligated to look at their sport as a full time job, but college football players are expected to make their academics fit their athletic schedule and not the other way around. Athletes constantly are forced to miss classes because of athletic obligations that in the end only profit the school. Athlete/student or student/athlete? You tell me.

To me it only makes sense that the athletes who help to drive in such a large sum of money for the school off their performance and dedication to their sport receive some sort of benefit. Nowhere else will you find a situation where someone’s name is branded, marketed and sold to the general public and the athlete receive absolutely nothing in return. Such is the madness of playing in the NCAA. It’s easy to say that the stars of the NCAA will eventually make their place in professional sports and earn what they deserve, but the truth is that’s simply not the case. Of the 9000 players that play NCAA football on 315 even get invited to participate in the NFL scouting combine with absolutely no guarantee of being selected.

So in a league that generates 11 billion dollars, and while playing on a team that earned 74 million dollars off of his success as a running back, Gurley was tried and convicted by the NCAA for the measly sum of $1500 a year. This wasn’t money that he stole or gambled, this was money Gurley received for signing his own name as an autograph, a token to an adoring fan that values Gurley enough to part with money in return his the spelling of his name.

But why would anyone with such NFL potential jeopardize the year he was supposed to make it in the big leagues? Well as life can show, nothing should be taken for granted. Certainly not the hard work of the student athletes that play NCAA football.

Gurley returned after his 4 game suspension on November 15th and with 4 minutes to go in the final quarter, blew out his ACl, ending his season and possibly his dream of going pro.

 

Here is some further reading about the legal problems with the NCAA business model: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2014/08/11/legal-cases-are-blowing-up-the-ncaa-big-business-model-why-it-matters/

I could not figure out why I couldn’t insert pictures, so I included the links to the photo and video I wanted to include

 

references:

TRACY, MARC. “Georgia Running Back Todd Gurley Suspended Until Nov. 15.” Georgia Running Back Todd Gurley Suspended Until Nov. 15. The New York Times, 29th Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2014

Services, ESPN.com News. “Todd Gurley Suffers Torn ACL.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, 16 Nov. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

Jessop, Alicia. “The Economics of College Football: A Look At The Top-25 Teams’ Revenues And Expenses.” Forbes. Sportsmoney, 31 Aug. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

Mitchel, Horace. “Students Are Not Professional Athletes.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 6 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

https://www.google.ca/?gws_rd=ssl#q=percentage+college+players+make+nfl

http://espn.go.com/college-football/player/_/id/534669/todd-gurley

 

 

 

 

A Look at the Importance of Physical Attractiveness for Women Athletes

I recently have noticed that media and socialization often pressure women into looking a particular way, to be feminine and sexual. I know you see it to, the advertisements of half naked skinny and attractive women are plastered almost everywhere. We come to view these women as the norm and often strive to become them; these pressures placed on women are particularly noticeable in sports.

Of course to be a successful athlete, one has to be good at the sport. But the line stops here for men, and often women are the ones that are subject to being pressured to not only be good at the sport, but to look attractive while doing it.

Take for example an incident at Wimbledon 2013. A headline in The Telegraph read, “BBC apologise for John Inverdale’s ‘Bartoli not a looker’ comment”. Marion Bartoli won her first grand slam title with a straight set victory, but instead of being admired for her victory, she was mocked for her appearance. Inverdale continued to criticize her looks, and branded her as ‘manly’. For the full article, click here. And for Inverdale’s BBC Radio comments, watch below.

In society, there is enormous pressure on female athletes to be attractive. Comments made to Bartoli based on how she was not considered hot enough proves that these same views carry over into sport with the pressure on women’s appearance to meet a certain standard. We can understand this as a double standard, which is pressure to be good at the sport, and pressure to be good looking.

Why is this a concern? Well, do we see a lot of media where men are made fun of for their appearances? The answer is there are very little, if not any media that cover these topics. Instead men are admired for their skill at the sport. Men do not face the same pressures that society places on women athletes; this ultimately creates disadvantages in sports based on access, equality, and fairness. Roger Federer, a successful tennis player, can play the sport and be admired for his victory, while Bartoli can do the same but instead mocked for her appearance. This creates insecurities for women wanting to participate but may stray from doing so because they know they can be subject to the same kind of ridicule.

This issue in sports not only is within the sport itself, but with matters around sport. Many philosophers deal with issues of equality and fairness in sport. For example, sex testing is one of these subtopics that are discussed by Katrina Karkazis and her colleagues in this paper here, where verification of gender to participate in a sport is typically bestowed upon women, and where those that are questioned are done so first and foremost on their looks.

Karkazis and her colleagues discuss how for the longest time cultural tensions between athleticism and femininity have been managed by strong encouragement “for individuals to have markers to emphasize their femininity (Karkazis et al. 7). These tensions reveal the anxieties people face for the need for women to look a certain way. Sport is one way where women are pressured to appear feminine and sexy, often using clothing reinforce this. Question: are men forced to wear overly masculine outfits to enhance their masculinity?

We see male swimmers in speedos, football players in tight pants, or men with long hair, and never question if they are female. We admire male athletes for their victory rather then their looks. However, we put women in tight shorts and sport bras in beach volleyball, or want women boxers to wear skirts to emphasize that they are female. When women athletes deviate from feminine standards, they are subject to scrutiny and mockery because of societies anxieties around femininity. To read more on tensions with athleticism, feminism, and athletic clothing, go to page 94 here for Amanda Schweinbez’s article “’Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee’- But Only If You Dress like One”.

Caster Semenya, a female Olympic athlete, can further illustrate the issue of the double standard in sport. Caster Semenya’s victory along with her outward signs of gender “that many read as ‘masculine’ raised suspicion about her sex” (Karkazis et al. 6). She was subject to brutal sex testing to confirm her sex, not only because of her successful win, but because she did not wear makeup, was muscular, and had other masculine traits. She was discriminated and tested solely because of her physical appearance. Her win quickly made her subject to months of scrutinizing her body. We see here both victory in the sport and pressure to conform to the socially acceptable standards of femininity would have meant Semenya not being up for questioning.

In the same ways that Semenya’s victory brought her sex up for questioning because of her appearance, Bartoli’s was too through the comments of her looks. Do we see men being made fun of for similar things? Do they have the same sort of pressure that society puts on them? Hardly do we see men being tested thinking they are females. This too puts immense pressure on female athletes to perform their gender when they know they may have to submit to sex testin, which creates barriers for participation in the sport for women. For example, women athletes that know they may be subject to sex testing might choose not to participate in the sport, whereas male athletes more often then not do not have to deal with this kind of question when choosing to participate. Sex testing primarily on women only reinforces the gender policing of women athlete’s appearance, and reinforces the pressure society places on women’s looks.

The point is that we need to praise men and women in sport for their victories and accomplishments rather then their appearance. Women are facing different challenges in sport then men by being pressured to conform to feminine standards and being ridiculed for deviate appearances. This is applicable in all of society, where women everyday are expected to adhere to certain female norms. The need for equality in sports can be gained by looking past appearance to ensure both men and women can participate in sports equally.

References:

Duffin, Claire and Sawer Patrick. “Wimbledon 2013: BBC apologise for John Inverdale’s ‘Bartoli not a looker’ comment”. Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. 6 July 2013. Web. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/tennis/wimbledon/10164511/Wimbledon-2013-BBC-apologise-for-John-Inverdales-Bartoli-not-a-looker-comment.html

Karkazis, Katrina, Rebecca Jordan-Young, Georgiann Davis, and Silvia Camporesi. “Out of Bounds? A Critique of the New Policies on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes” The American Journal of Bioethics. 12:7, 3-16. 2012. Print

Schweinbez, Amanda. “’Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee’—But Only if You Dress Like a Girl: An Analysis of the Feminization of Female Olympic Athletes through Athletic Attire” in Problems, Possibilities, Promising Practices: Critical Dialogues on the Olympic and Paralympic Games. International Centre for Olympic Studies: London, Ontario. 2012. 94-98. Web. http://regnet.anu.edu.au/sites/default/files/2012_International_Symposium_For_Olympic_Studies._Proceedings.pdf

newstimeworld. “John Inverdale Says Wimbledon Champ Marion Bartoli Will Never Be A Looker”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube. 8 July 2013. Web. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_c_oxL0kTzI