Exclusive - Joe Nocera Extended Interview

March 15, 2016 - Joe Nocera 03/15/2016 Views: 772

"Indentured" author Joe Nocera examines ways for mistreated college athletes to fight back against the NCAA. (6:39)

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My guest tonight is a columnistfor The New York Times

and the co-author of the book Indentured: The Inside Story

of the RebellionAgainst the NCAA.

Please welcome Joe Nocera.

-♪ -(cheering and applause)

Thank you so muchfor being here.

-My pleasure.-What a fascinating book.

Let's get into it immediately,because, I mean,

we're at the, uh... we'reat the start of March Madness.

-We are. -We're talkingabout college basketball.

And the book... I mean,that title, Indentured,

is it safe to say you are saying

that the NCAA treatsits players like slaves?

Indentured servants.

I don't go all the wayto slaves. I don't.

-But indentured servants.-But you-you go along to sla...

-but not all the way to slaves.-Not-not all the way.

-Not all the way. No.-Yeah. Yeah.

They could leave.They can leave.

Uh, of course, it wrecks theircareer, it wrecks their life,

they can't get an education,they don't have a better life,

-but they can leave.-So slaves.

Got it. Uh...

It's-it's sucha fascinating book.

Because, I mean, a lot of peoplelove college basketball.

It's-it's so exciting.You know, it's huge in America.

But, I mean, the thingsthat you read about in this book

are so powerfulin terms of how you feel

the NCAA's treating the players.

Do you really believe

that the change needs to comein f... in the form

-of them paying the players?-I do.

I thinkthey need more rights, uh,

I think they need due process,and I think they need money.

Um, they get a scholarship,

but they often don't getan education.

They're making billionsof dollars

-for everyone else. -What doesthat mean when you say

that they get a scholarshipbut they don't get an education?

Well, they take classesthat are designed

to keep them on the fieldas opposed to getting a...

having a normal majorlike-like every other student.

-A lot of them aren't preparedfor college work. -Yeah.

Uh, a lot of them...you know, they get...

They-they...they finish their four years,

they're not ready to graduate,they're done.

They get...they'll get tossed out.

Here's a...here's a problem.

I mean, from the NCAA's side.

They say the reason

college players shouldn'tbe paid is because...

I mean, they give...they list many reasons.

One of the biggest ones is that

that no longer meansthey're amateurs.

It will spoil the game.

(laughing):That's... that's correct.

It no longer meansthey're amateurs. So?


-What's their point?-(applause and cheering)

Well, okay.Well, what's the point? What...

The point they're making is...the point they're making is,

they're saying, without the gamebeing about amateurs,

it loses the thrill.

Part of the thrill is thatthey're not professionals.

Part of the thrill isthat these are college kids,

and that makes it exciting.It has a rawness to it.

Well, where does it say

that you can't get paidif you're in college?

-NOAH: In the NCAA rules.-(applause)

-No, no, no. I meanevery student. -Yeah. Yeah.

You know,you work in the photo lab.

You, uh...you work in the cafeteria.

Lots of students get paid.

The only ones who don't get paidare athletes, who, by the way,

-work 50 to 60 hours.-(applause)

Their education is way secondaryto being on the practice field.


And, oh, by the way, the coachmakes five million dollars.

By... And you know whyhe makes five million dollars?

'Cause they don't have any...

They don't have anyplace elseto put the money.

-That is insane. That is insane.-(audience groans)

It's truly fascinating what I...

Let's saythere was a middle ground,

because, I mean, it's easyto say they have to pay them.

-NCAA doesn't want to pay them.-That's correct.

What are the thingsthat can improve?

Because you have some reallygreat suggestions in the book,

which I appreciated.

For instance,talking about the health care.

Why is health care and insuranceso important for these players?

Well, a lot of them, you know,

they end their careerswith injury, with pain,

that they're gonna havefor the rest of their life.

I think the universitieshave a moral responsibility

to give playerslifetime scholarships

and lifetime health insurance.

(applause, whooping)

If a player becomesa huge NBA star, though,

isn't that a little bit unfair?

How many of them becomehuge NBA stars?

Five percent of college athletesjoin the professional rank.

Five percent. So we're talking,really, about 95%,

their one windowof athletic opportunity

is when they're in college.

And, you know,a lot of them don't graduate.

Ten years later, they think,"You know,

-I really should've gottenmy degree." -Yeah.

I think theyshould be able to do that.

But I also think,

while they have thislittle window of opportunity,

they should get some money.

-Why...-It makes complete sense.

It really does. And in termsof the scholarships,

you proposea lifetime scholarship,

which is reallyinteresting to me,

saying the playerscan come back to the school

at any time in their livesand get that degree

-that they really need.-I think they deserve that.

They've made everybody elsemillions of dollars.

Assistant coaches make$1.5 million now in Alabama.


So, you know,the idea that the players

are supposed to be, you know,happy with a scholarship

that doesn't even give thema decent education,

that strikes me as just wrong.

-(applause)-Here's a...


Here's a question, though.

The book is amazing,you have fantastic suggestions,

but it is the NCAA--they do not play around.

-(laughs) You think?-Like... how do you get this...

how do youget this going forward?

Where do you begin

-the conversation?-Well, here's the problem.

The-the courts, uh,haven't done a whole lot.

Congress is nevergonna do anything.

The NCAA is nevergonna reform itself,

but there is a way.There is a way.

If one team at the Final Four

decided not to come out

and just stayedin the locker room,

you'd change the systemin an hour.

Can you tell mewhich team that would be?

I just need to changemy bracket.

That's all I'm saying.

I just needto adjust my bracket.

That is, uh, that is aninteresting challenge.

Do you think any players

would have the heart to do that?

Um, five years ago, I thoughtthat was completely impossible.

But then the Missourifootball team last fall

said if we don't do somethingabout the racial incidents

on campus,we're going on strike,

and we won't play next Sunday.Saturday.

And think about what happened.Think about what happened.


The president of the universityresigned within 36 hours.

That's powerful.

Players have power.

So, Final Four, one hour.

-Stay in the locker room.-Stay in the locker room.

Which team would you liketo stay in the locker room?

Well, all the Kentucky guysare gonna get drafted

the next week anyway,so it might as well as be them.

Well, there you go. Kentucky,stay in the locker room.

Indentured is available now.It's an amazing book.

I really recommend you to readit if you love basketball

or if you justlike, uh, exploitation.

Joe Nocera, everybody.We'll be right back.

-♪ -(cheering, applause)

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