It is surprising how individuals that are supposedly pro market and appear to exemplify virtuous morals can favor banning eighteen to twenty-one year old men from obtaining a job at the highest level of their trade. This is the stance that so many blindly defend while supporting NCAA bylaws, NFL rules, and State laws, which prevent football players from entering the NFL unless they have been out of high school for three years.
We constantly see stories of football players getting caught taking money from coaches, boosters, and sports agents. The punishments the NCAA has issued have come under fire as critics have claimed they do not adequately punish offenders, thus failing to deter future athletes from breaking the rules.
The State has increased their involvement by bringing down the heavy hand of the law, where many feel the NCAA has failed.
This brings us to the recent felony charges brought against Terry Watson, a Georgia based sports agent. Watson was charged this past week with 13 counts of providing cash or accommodations to three former University of North Carolina football players and one charge of obstruction of justice.
WNCN in Raleigh, NC reported on the indictment, which claims Watson tried to induce UNC football players Marvin Austin, Greg Little, and Robert Quinn into signing a contract with him by supplying them with cash payments, airline tickets, and hotel rooms.
The charges against Watson are the result of North Carolina’s Uniform Athletes Agents Act. The Act’s main objectives are to make sure agents register with the Secretary of State’s office and to punish sports agents who tamper with collegiate athletes. Violators will be charged with a Class I felony.
Why would the State be so interested in preventing athletes, especially football players, from receiving money from unauthorized sources and keeping the current system intact?
A good place to find the answers is by determining who benefits and how they benefit. The parties involved are the NCAA, major universities, the NFL, and the State.
Under the current system, NFL owners are spared the hefty cost and risk of paying for player development. Universities are able to pay athletes only tuition, room, and board, yet they make hundreds of millions through tickets, jerseys, and donations. The NCAA’s benefit is their very existence, because without so many rules and procedures to enforce, there would be no need for the NCAA. Lastly, the State is always happy to initiate force against non-violent people in order to ensure the boat is not rocked and the tax revenue keeps flowing!
If there is a market for an individual’s services in a free society, then they should be allowed to pursue a mutually agreed upon wage. Baseball players are allowed to play professionally without attending college, as are hockey players, what makes football players different?
A free market in sports would increase competition and reduce the control wielded by those that have profited by distorting the market in their favor. It would allow individuals to pursue the line of work they choose without impeding their progress by placing unnecessary qualifiers in their path. A free market in sports would drastically change the landscape of college and professional sports as we know them. This undoubtedly makes fans uncomfortable. Defenders of the current system should be even more uncomfortable with endorsing a system that thrives on theft and the extortion of young men.