When Keyontae Johnson, a 21 year old basketball player, agreed to play NCAA basketball at the University of Florida, he had no idea about the trauma that he would experience. Keyontae contracted COVID-19 in August and after passing physical screenings, he collapsed while playing basketball. He was then diagnosed with a rare heart disease that would impact him for the rest of his life. He was also placed in a medically induced coma as doctors fought to save his life. Luckily for Keyontae, he was able to recover and is back on the sidelines at the University of Florida while managing his heart condition. Many suspected that the heart condition was linked to COVID-19 and had concerns about NCAA athletes contracting the virus while playing sports.
A huge concern for Keyontae and many others is the NCAA’s failure to provide long-term medical care for athletes who are seriously injured and/or contract COVID-19 while playing NCAA sports. The massive revenue that the NCAA generates and its failure to provide long-term healthcare benefits shows the economic injustice that exists for NCAA athletes.
The NCAA generates $867.5 million annually on championship television and marketing rights and $177.9 million on tickets sales. The NCAA spends over $100 million dollars on legal services, communications, business insurance, and general and administrative expenses but has no requirement for a single dime to be paid on future healthcare or medical expenses for athletes who experience brain damage including CTE (a degenerative brain disorder that is common among athletes who have had concussions), suffer serious injuries, or contract COVID-19 while they were playing NCAA organized sports. The NCAA’s only policy covers catastrophic injuries and the bills for some of those injuries while the athletes are participating in NCAA organized sports, and not after graduation. Many athletes also lose their scholarships when they sustain these serious injuries and some have no financial means to finish their degree programs.
This issue is made worse when it becomes clear that the athletes who are generating this revenue, often to their own detriment, are often Black athletes from poor backgrounds. The National Bureau of Economic Research analyzed the revenues among 65 athletic departments at the NCAA’s highest revenue generating programs, Division I men’s basketball and football. Almost 60% of the athletes in these revenue generating spo
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