Unsportsmanlike Conduct: The Exploitation of Black Athletes

blackpressusa-logoOriginally published as a three-part series November 26, 2013 through December 10, 2013 on BlackPressUSA.com from NNPA, the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

The author with former client Willie Gault, who played 11 years
with the Chicago Bears and the Oakland Raiders.

By Everett L. Glenn
NNPA Special Contributor

(As a sports agent, Attorney Everett Glenn has negotiated contracts for some of the biggest names in sports, including NFL Hall of Famers Jerry Rice, Richard Dent and Reggie White as well as 11 first round draft picks. He has also had a front-row seat observing how Black athletes and the Black community are exploited, enriching others while leaving the community and, ultimately, the athletes themselves destitute. Sports are a $500 billion per year industry, but few of those dollars return to the African- American community. According to Sports Illustrated, by the time former NFL players have been retired for two years, nearly 80 percent of them “have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.” Within five years of retirement, approximately 60 percent of former NBA players are broke. After more than three decades of looking at this tragedy on the collegiate and professional level, Attorney Glenn pulls back the cover on these practices in a 3-part series for the NNPA News Service and, more importantly, outlines what can be done to halt the wholesale exploitation and initiate economic reciprocity.)

Part 1

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Under its television deal, each Big-10 university will receive $24.6 million annually. The Pac-12′s new television deal will pay each member $22 million a year. Each member of the Big 12 will get $20 million and ACC universities will receive $17 million when each academic year kicks off.

To put those figures in perspective, the annual payout for a single institution in those conferences is larger than the combined gross revenue ($16 million) of four Black conferences – the CIAA, MEAC, SIAC and SWAC.

The salary of a football and a basketball coach, Alabama’s Nick Saban ($4.8 million) and Kentucky’s John Calipari ($3.7 million base/$31.65 million deal), is greater than the combined salaries of the 96 head coaches of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Division 1AA and Division II basketball and football teams, and nearly 50 percent of their combined $16 million revenue. And that’s the income of just two coaches.

Although almost all of the head coaches at major universities are White, most of the money is generated by Black athletes.

“Ninety percent of the NCAA revenue is produced by 1 percent of the athletes. Go to the skill positions – the stars. Ninety percent are Black,” says Sonny Vaccaro, who since signing his pioneering shoe contract with Michael Jordan in 1984 also profited off the labor of the Black athlete by building sponsorship empires successively at Nike, Adidas and Reebok.

Two California universities are a case in point.

Everett Glenn looks on as Roland Martin interviews NFL Hall of Famer Richard Dent.

Black students represent less than 5 percent of the UCLA and University of Southern California student bodies. Nearly 43 percent of the USC football roster and 70 percent of its starters are Black. Black athletes make up nearly 90 percent of the USC men’s basketball team. At UCLA, 51 percent of the football roster and 72 percent of starters are Black. In basketball, Black athletes make up 80 percent of the team.

According to NCAA President Mark Emmert, basketball and football revenue at those schools funds $2 billion in scholarships annually, making Black athletes the single largest generator of scholarship dollars besides the federal government. At USC, Black talent supports scholarships for 600 mostly White athletes and salaries for 94 coaches as well as 615 scholarships and salaries for 89 coaches at UCLA.

While Black athletes dominate the UCLA and USC rosters, their academic success lags behind White athletes, according to the annual NCAA Graduation Success Rate Report. During the 2011-12 school year, USC graduated 43 percent of its Black football players, compared to 67 percent of White players, according to University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Equity in Education.

USC’s basketball team fared even worse, with a 43 percent Graduation Success Rate (the percentage of scholarship athletes who graduate within six years of initial enrollment), the worst in the PAC-12. As bad as this is, it represents an improvement over the 38 percent a year earlier. UCLA graduated 46 percent of its Black football players, compared to 71 percent of their White teammates.

Travel east to Ohio State – or anywhere else – and the pattern is the same.

Black athletes represent 52.9 percent of OSU’s basketball and football rosters and dominate among its star players, fueling a nearly $130 million athletic department budget on a campus where Black males represent only 2.7 percent of the student body.

And like UCLA and USC, the OSU Black athletes trail their White teammates in graduation success. Ohio State football tied for fifth in the Big Ten, according to the most recent graduation data. The men’s basketball team, with a graduation rate of 46 percent, ranked last in the Big Ten.

The disparity between the graduation rate for OSU’s Black football players, at 38 percent, and all student-athletes, at 71 percent, representing the highest disparity in the Big-10. The disparity between the graduation rate of Black athletes and the rest of the OSU student body is the second-worst in the Big-10, a 36 percent difference. The 13 point disparity in graduation rates between Ohio State’s Black basketball and football players and all Black students is also the largest among Big-10 schools.

With the exception of Moody Nolan, a Columbus-based architectural firm, no Black contractors have participated in any significant way on any of the sports-related construction at Ohio State. And the reported $500,000 gift made by former All-American Michael Redd to sponsor the lobby of the new $19 million training facility, the largest gift ever by a former OSU player, did not alter the picture.

If any former star Black athletes blossom into successful business owners, they get shut out again because of the lack of participation of Black businesses and professionals.

Everett Glenn with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Blacks were not included in USC’s $140 million Galen Center, a 255,000 square-foot basketball arena with 10,258 seats. A 45,000 square-foot attachment contains additional practice room with three sections with enough space for four full basketball courts or nine volleyball courts as well as space for coaches and administrative offices.

Nor were they included in the $70 million John McKay Center, a 110,000-square-foot athletic and academic facility that houses meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and a locker room for the football program, as well as the Stevens Academic Center (including space for tutoring, counseling, study and computer rooms for student-athletes), a weight room, an athletic training room and a state-of-the-art digital media production facility for all of USC’s 21 sports.

Another $177 million was spent on renovation to the Rose Bowl and $185 million in renovation to Pauley Pavilion at UCLA. Not a single Black contractor participated on any of the projects. Two Hispanic firms received contracts worth approximately 6 percent of the Pauley Pavilion project, according to UCLA officials. USC officials refused to respond to inquiries about participation by Black contractors and professionals on the Galen and John McKay Centers.

While White colleges and industry stakeholders (networks, sponsors, apparel companies, etc) are reaping huge financial rewards off Black athletic talent, the people who make it all possible are not sharing in the benefits. Blacks are undoubtedly the stars on the football field and basketball courts. But economically, African Americans remain confined to the sideline.

Part 2

Only 1 percent of contractors of Levi’s Stadium in California are people of color.

Under its television deal, each Big-10 university will receive $24.6 million annually. The Pac-12′s new television deal will pay each member $22 million a year. Each member of the Big 12 will get $20 million and ACC universities will receive $17 million when each academic year kicks off.

To put those figures in perspective, the annual payout for a single institution in those conferences is larger than the combined gross revenue ($16 million) of four Black conferences – the CIAA, MEAC, SIAC and SWAC.

The salary of a football and a basketball coach, Alabama’s Nick Saban ($4.8 million) and Kentucky’s John Calipari ($3.7 million base/$31.65 million deal), is greater than the combined salaries of the 96 head coaches of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Division 1AA and Division II basketball and football teams, and nearly 50 percent of their combined $16 million revenue. And that’s the income of just two coaches.

Although almost all of the head coaches at major universities are White, most of the money is generated by Black athletes.

“Ninety percent of the NCAA revenue is produced by 1 percent of the athletes. Go to the skill positions – the stars. Ninety percent are Black,” says Sonny Vaccaro, who since signing his pioneering shoe contract with Michael Jordan in 1984 also profited off the labor of the Black athlete by building sponsorship empires successively at Nike, Adidas and Reebok.

Two California universities are a case in point.

Everett Glenn looks on as Roland Martin interviews NFL Hall of Famer Richard Dent.

Black students represent less than 5 percent of the UCLA and University of Southern California student bodies. Nearly 43 percent of the USC football roster and 70 percent of its starters are Black. Black athletes make up nearly 90 percent of the USC men’s basketball team. At UCLA, 51 percent of the football roster and 72 percent of starters are Black. In basketball, Black athletes make up 80 percent of the team.

According to NCAA President Mark Emmert, basketball and football revenue at those schools funds $2 billion in scholarships annually, making Black athletes the single largest generator of scholarship dollars besides the federal government. At USC, Black talent supports scholarships for 600 mostly White athletes and salaries for 94 coaches as well as 615 scholarships and salaries for 89 coaches at UCLA.

While Black athletes dominate the UCLA and USC rosters, their academic success lags behind White athletes, according to the annual NCAA Graduation Success Rate Report. During the 2011-12 school year, USC graduated 43 percent of its Black football players, compared to 67 percent of White players, according to University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Equity in Education.

USC’s basketball team fared even worse, with a 43 percent Graduation Success Rate (the percentage of scholarship athletes who graduate within six years of initial enrollment), the worst in the PAC-12. As bad as this is, it represents an improvement over the 38 percent a year earlier. UCLA graduated 46 percent of its Black football players, compared to 71 percent of their White teammates.

Travel east to Ohio State – or anywhere else – and the pattern is the same.

Black athletes represent 52.9 percent of OSU’s basketball and football rosters and dominate among its star players, fueling a nearly $130 million athletic department budget on a campus where Black males represent only 2.7 percent of the student body.

And like UCLA and USC, the OSU Black athletes trail their White teammates in graduation success. Ohio State football tied for fifth in the Big Ten, according to the most recent graduation data. The men’s basketball team, with a graduation rate of 46 percent, ranked last in the Big Ten.

The disparity between the graduation rate for OSU’s Black football players, at 38 percent, and all student-athletes, at 71 percent, representing the highest disparity in the Big-10. The disparity between the graduation rate of Black athletes and the rest of the OSU student body is the second-worst in the Big-10, a 36 percent difference. The 13 point disparity in graduation rates between Ohio State’s Black basketball and football players and all Black students is also the largest among Big-10 schools.

With the exception of Moody Nolan, a Columbus-based architectural firm, no Black contractors have participated in any significant way on any of the sports-related construction at Ohio State. And the reported $500,000 gift made by former All-American Michael Redd to sponsor the lobby of the new $19 million training facility, the largest gift ever by a former OSU player, did not alter the picture.

If any former star Black athletes blossom into successful business owners, they get shut out again because of the lack of participation of Black businesses and professionals.

Everett Glenn with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Blacks were not included in USC’s $140 million Galen Center, a 255,000 square-foot basketball arena with 10,258 seats. A 45,000 square-foot attachment contains additional practice room with three sections with enough space for four full basketball courts or nine volleyball courts as well as space for coaches and administrative offices.

Nor were they included in the $70 million John McKay Center, a 110,000-square-foot athletic and academic facility that houses meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and a locker room for the football program, as well as the Stevens Academic Center (including space for tutoring, counseling, study and computer rooms for student-athletes), a weight room, an athletic training room and a state-of-the-art digital media production facility for all of USC’s 21 sports.

Another $177 million was spent on renovation to the Rose Bowl and $185 million in renovation to Pauley Pavilion at UCLA. Not a single Black contractor participated on any of the projects. Two Hispanic firms received contracts worth approximately 6 percent of the Pauley Pavilion project, according to UCLA officials. USC officials refused to respond to inquiries about participation by Black contractors and professionals on the
Galen and John McKay Centers.

While White colleges and industry stakeholders (networks, sponsors, apparel companies, etc) are reaping huge financial rewards off Black athletic talent, the people who make it all possible are not sharing in the benefits. Blacks are undoubtedly the stars on the football field and basketball courts. But economically, African Americans remain confined to the sideline.

Part 3

Everett Glenn (left) with Minnesota Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier.

A description of Rice University’s stand-alone major in sports management describes the enormity of the sports business:  “Experts conservatively estimate the sport industry at $500 billion a year making it one of the top 10 industries in the nation.”

Touting its sports management program, George Washington University in the District of Columbia observes: “No single aspect of our culture receives as much media attention nor has the power to bring people together as sport.”

It is clear from above that universities are following the money in hopes of their students getting a larger slice of it and, along the way, praying that alumni will not forget their alma mater when they write checks to charity.

However, as we’ve seen in Part I and Part II of this series, Black athletes are primarily fueling this money-machine at the collegiate and professional levels yet African-Americans are excluded from everything from getting in on construction contracts, agent representation, media advertising and accounting to financial planning.

This must change.

In its TV commercials, the NCAA accurately states that most college athletes will turn pro in a field other than athletics.

I hereby submit Community Action Plan #1:

Petition the NCAA to finance a study to determine what happens to the 99 percent of Black student-athletes in college basketball and football who do not go pro.

Some who do turn pro are ill-equipped for life.

One of the saddest spectacles I have ever witnessed was former All-Pro defensive end Dexter Manley of the Washington Redskins testifying before Congress in 1989 that he could not read, write or spell. He was failed at every point in his life – from high school and university coaches who allowed him to play football without mastering basic academic skills to the NFL that allowed him to continue on his dead-in path to nowhere.

That’s one of the reasons we at the ESP Education & Leadership Institute established our Business of Sport Success program (BOSS). Essentially, we use sports as a vehicle to motivate middle and high school students to complete high school and go on to college by exposing the students to the business side of athletics.

To get our young Black males pointed in the right direction, we hereby submit Community Action Plan #2:

As part of the BOSS initiative, convene a national conference, to be jointly sponsored by such organizations as 100 Black Men and male Greek organizations for the fall of 2014 to address Black male issues, including Black male student-athletes.

As was pointed out in Part I of this series, Black athletes represent 52.9 percent of Ohio State University’s basketball and football rosters and dominate among its star players, fueling a nearly $130 million athletic department budget on a campus where Black males represent only 2.7 percent of the student body. The disparity between the graduation rate for OSU’s Black football players, at 38 percent, and all student-athletes, at 71 percent, represent the highest disparity in the Big-10.

Community Action Plan #3:

Petition the NCAA and each of the six major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big-10, Big-12, Pacific-12 and SEC) to impose sanctions on their members, including the loss of scholarships and/or a ban on bowl appearances, if the graduation rate of Black student-athletes in basketball and football is not within 20 percent of the graduation rate of all student athletes in their respective institutions, commencing in 2016 when the NCAA’s new eligibility standards for prospective student-athletes go into effect.

In Part II, we cited examples from the long list of professional athletes who earn millions of dollars yet, in the case of Allen Iverson, for example, he had reached to point where he said he could not afford to buy a cheeseburger.

Again, this is where family and friends – true friends, not vultures looking for a soft landing spot – can assist.

It was inspiring to see that Philadelphia 76ers rookie Michael Carter-Williams, who is being managed by his mother and her best friend, is placing his entire salary in a trust fund that he cannot touch for three years. Instead of dipping into his salary of $4.5 million over his first two season – with the possibility of earning $10 million if the 76ers pick up the final season of his two-year deal – Carter-Williams is living off of the money he is making from endorsement deals with Nike and Panini trading cards. Other pro athletes should follow his example.

Of course, athletes need stadiums and arenas in which to play. And, like everything else related to the business side of sports, Blacks are Missing in Action.

Our taxes are used to help finance new or modernized sports facilities, but we do not get a return on our investment. Approximately two-thirds of the $21.7 billion spent on the 95 stadiums and arenas built between 1990 and 2000 were heavily subsidized or entirely financed by tax revenues. The carnival of construction taking place today is proceeding without an effective strategy to ensure meaningful participation by Black construction professionals. The ESP Education & Leadership Institute (the “Institute”), of which I am president, was established in last year, in large measure, to reverse this trend.

The entire Black community will benefit if we can redirect just 10 percent of the sports industry spend on goods and services.  Such a shift will create new and exciting opportunities for Black accountants, construction professionals, consultants, financial and real estate professionals in the sports industry.

It will also have the trickle down effect of increasing discretionary income available to Black professionals and businesses to support institutions and organizations in our community, from the NAACP, the National Urban League, the National Action Network and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition to Black churches that have been the backbone of our community.

We know from first-hand experience this can work.

The ESP Education & Leadership Institute was able to secure more than $25 million in contracts for people of color on the Levi’s Stadium project, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, even though the project was already 60 percent complete and contracts for more than 80 percent of the work had been awarded.

On the heels of that experience, our organization has initiated conversations with the principals on the new $500 million Sacramento Kings arena and the $1 billion-plus Atlanta Braves stadium/entertainment center project, with a view towards creating even more opportunities by being engaged from the very start of those and other projects.

Our effort was supported by more than 12 million Blacks who are members of the California Black Chamber, the National Association of Minority Contractors, the Empowerment Experiment, the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the NAACP, National Action Network, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, the National Baptist Convention, the National Urban League and the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc., as well as the San Francisco and Oakland African-American chambers.

Of course, the problem extends beyond sports.

A Nielsen report, produced in cooperation with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) titled, “Resilient, Receptive and Relevant: The African-American Consumer 2013 Report,” disclosed that although annual Black spending is projected to rise from its current $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion in 2017, advertisers allot only 3 percent of their $2.2 billion yearly budget to media that target Black audiences.

To address this and related problems, we offer Community Action Plan #4:

Convene a national conference in July of 2014 jointly sponsored by major civil rights organizations and the U.S. Black Chamber to develop strategies for holding colleges, professional leagues and major corporations accountable for the lack of economic reciprocity in their goods and services they purchase.

As Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, senior vice-president, public affairs and government relations for Nielsen, said, “Until we do a better job as consumers in the choices we make and invest in companies that invest in us, we are not going to have any changes.”

We hope you’ll join our nationwide effort at the ESP Education & Leadership Institute to empower our community by letting everyone know that sports in more than a game – it’s a business.

Everett L. Glenn of the ESP Education & Leadership Institute can be reached at 562.619.8460 or eglenn@espeli.org.

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