“How can the NCAA blithely wreck careers without regard to due process or common fairness? How can it act so ruthlessly to enforce rules that are so petty? Why won’t anybody stand up to these outrageous violations of American values and American justice?”
In the four years since Joe Nocera asked those questions in a controversial New York Times column, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has come under fire. Fans have begun to realize that the athletes involved in the two biggest college sports, men’s basketball and football, are little more than indentured servants. Millions of teenagers accept scholarships to chase their dreams of fame and fortune—at the price of absolute submission to the whims of an organization that puts their interests dead last.
For about 5 percent of top-division players, college ends with a golden ticket to the NFL or the NBA. But what about the overwhelming majority who never turn pro? They don’t earn a dime from the estimated $13 billion generated annually by college sports—an ocean of cash that enriches schools, conferences, coaches, TV networks, and apparel companies . . . everyone except those who give their blood and sweat to entertain the fans.
Indentured tells the dramatic story of a loose-knit group of rebels who decided to fight the hypocrisy of the NCAA, which blathers endlessly about the purity of its “student-athletes” while exploiting many of them: The ones who get injured and drop out because their scholarships have been revoked. The ones who will neither graduate nor go pro. The ones who live in terror of accidentally violating some obscure rule in the four-hundred-page NCAA rulebook.
Joe Nocera and Ben Strauss take us into the inner circle of the NCAA’s fiercest enemies. You’ll meet, among others . . .
·Sonny Vaccaro, the charismatic sports marketer who convinced Nike to sign Michael Jordan. Disgusted by how the NCAA treated athletes, Vaccaro used his intimate knowledge of its secrets to blow the whistle in a major legal case.
·Ed O’Bannon, the former UCLA basketball star who realized, years after leaving college, that the NCAA was profiting from a video game using his image. His lawsuit led to an unprecedented antitrust ruling.
·Ramogi Huma, the founder of the National College Players Association, who dared to think that college players should have the same collective bargaining rights as other Americans.
·Andy Schwarz, the controversial economist who looked behind the façade of the NCAA and saw it for what it is: a cartel that violates our core values of free enterprise.
Indentured reveals how these and other renegades, working sometimes in concert and sometimes alone, are fighting for justice in the bare-knuckles world of college sports.