As the minutes tick down to the big NCAA Tourney championship game showdown between UConn and Kentucky, suddenly the spotlight swings toward NCAA business matters. It’s kind of an amazing thing that UConn point guard Shabazz Napier said in an interview on Sunday: sometimes he and his teammates “go to bed starving”” because they don’t have enough money for food.
Napier, when asked about recent attempts by Northwestern athletes to unionize:
“I feel like a student athlete. Sometimes, there’s hungry nights where I’m not able to eat, but I still gotta play up to my capabilities. Sometimes it’s that way. I don’t see myself as so much of an employee, but when you see your jersey getting sold, it may not have your last name on it, but when you see your jersey getting sold, to some credit, you feel like you want something in return.”
Like I said, I don’t think players should get hundreds of thousands of dollars. But there are hungry nights, when I go to bed starving.”
Connecticut State Rep. Matthew Lesser has been working toward legislation that would allow athletes at UConn to unionize. And he’s using Napier’s recent comment as fuel.
“He says he’s going to bed hungry at a time when millions of dollars are being made off of him. It’s obscene,” Lesser said. “This isn’t a Connecticut problem. This is an NCAA problem, and I want to make sure we’re putting pressure on them to treat athletes well.”
It’s all back to the fundamental question: if coaches are getting paid huge bonuses and programs are making big bucks from selling jerseys and memorabilia, shouldn’t the players get a little part of that?
Some are disputing Napier’s claim, saying that UConn athletes, and college athletes in general, get a dining hall discount, and other extra meal allowances. But if a player says in an interview that he sometimes goes to bed hungry, I find it hard not to believe him.