I was flabbergasted when I saw this one.
Those of us who are neither lawyers nor constitutional scholars may be forgiven for not knowing that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution left a little wiggle room when it banned slavery:
[quote]Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
In a federal court case brought by an Illinois prisoner, the court ruled in 1992 that the above boldfaced phrase permits prisons not to pay its inmates minimum wage for the work that they do at the prison – farming, laundry, making license plates, whatever.
All well and good. It doesn’t take a legal scholar to read that clause and reach the same conclusion the court did – that prisoners may be subjected to involuntary servitude. Whether you like that or not is another issue, but it’s legally defensible. And it has nothing to do with college sports.
Or does it?
Since that 1992 decision (which was not reviewed by the Supreme Court as far as I know), the NCAA has on three occasions cited it as a legal basis for not paying athletes. That athletes are slave laborers, no better than prisoners. Most recently the NCAA used this argument in response to a class action lawsuit filed by a former NCAA athlete, Lawrence Livers, in Pennsylvania in September 2017. The 1992 case is Vanskike v Peters; you will find the word Vanskike repeatedly in the NCAA’s response, linked here:
<LINK_TEXT text=“https://www.documentcloud.org/documents … it-On.html”>https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4385598-NCAA-Motion-to-Dismiss-Livers-s-Lawsuit-On.html</LINK_TEXT>
Yes, they are lumping in college athletes with prisoners convicted of rape or murder or dealing drugs. Now undoubtedly a few of the former will wind up among the latter – but they ain’t there yet, and most will never be. And it should not go unnoticed that there is a racial element here – college athletes, like prisoners, have a significantly greater proportion of African-Americans than the general population.
Here’s a discussion of the NCAA reliance on the Vanskike ruling:
<LINK_TEXT text=“https://theintercept.com/2018/02/22/nca … id-prison/”>https://theintercept.com/2018/02/22/ncaa-student-athletes-unpaid-prison/</LINK_TEXT>