Against Mandatory Amateurism

Allison Schrager stands up for mandatory amateurism for guys who are skilled at football and basketball:

Second, playing on a college team instead of a professional minor league one is often better for the athletes. Most players, even in elite programmes, do not get a professional contract, so their alternatives would be a few years as a poorly paid minor-league athlete or a stint on a college team that includes access to a college education. The education alternative has the potential to diversify an athlete’s human capital, by developing skills other than those specifically related to basketball or American football. These skills are more valuable than wages they’d be paid as minor league athletes.

Maybe . . . but . . . do we apply this logic to any other field of endeavor? Maybe we should let movie and television studious form a cartel that refuses to pay actors in any form other than than University of California scholarships. After all, most aspiring actors won’t make it and the education they receive may prove to be more valuable than their wages. But nobody proposes that, because it would be insane. I think it just so happens to be the case that highly skilled 18 year-old football and basketball players tend to be politically disempowered individuals from politically disempowered families. Consequently, we’ve let the NCAA construct a cartel that wouldn’t be tolerated in other contexts and shouldn’t be tolerated in this one.