Dating an illiterate man
Hausfeld read to me from page 390: The college player cannot sell his own feet (the coach does that) nor can he sell his own name (the college will do that).
This is the plantation mentality resurrected and blessed by today’s campus executives. (He is now 89.) Was that part of the plaintiffs’ strategy for the O’Bannon trial? “I’d rather the NCAA lawyers not fully understand the strategy,” he said.
A litany of scandals in recent years have made the corruption of college sports constant front-page news.
We profess outrage each time we learn that yet another student-athlete has been taking money under the table.
“And every player knows those millions are floating around only because of the 18-to-22-year-olds.” Yes, he told me, even the second-string punter believes a miracle might lift him into the NFL, and why not?
In all the many pages of the three voluminous Knight Commission reports, there is but one paragraph that addresses the real-life choices for college athletes.
Vaccaro had sought a law firm for O’Bannon with pockets deep enough to withstand an expensive war of attrition, fearing that NCAA officials would fight discovery to the end. Late in 2008, someone who heard his stump speech at Howard University mentioned it to Michael Hausfeld, a prominent antitrust and human-rights lawyer, whose firm had won suits against Exxon for Native Alaskans and against Union Bank of Switzerland for Holocaust victims’ families.“I want to give something back.” Call it redemption, he told me. The outcome of the 1984 Regents decision validated an antitrust approach for O’Bannon, King argues, as well as for Joseph Agnew in his continuing case against the one-year scholarship rule.Lawyers for Sam Keller—a former quarterback for the University of Nebraska who is featured in video games—are pursuing a parallel “right of publicity” track based on the First Amendment.Someone tracked down Vaccaro on vacation in Athens, Greece, and he flew back directly to meet Hausfeld.The shoe salesman and the white-shoe lawyer made common cause. When I talked with Hausfeld there not long ago, he sat in a cavernous conference room, tidy in pinstripes, hands folded on a spotless table that reflected the skyline.
But while amateurism—and the free labor it provides—may be necessary to the preservation of the NCAA, and perhaps to the profit margins of various interested corporations and educational institutions, what if it doesn’t benefit the athletes? “Ninety percent of the NCAA revenue is produced by 1 percent of the athletes,” Sonny Vaccaro says. “Ninety percent African Americans.” The NCAA made its money off those kids, and so did he.