March Madness would be players walking out until they get paid

NCAA

The NCAA men's basketball tournament began this week. (Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports / March 19, 2014)

Jeffery Kessler went to court this week. 

Organized sports know this is not good news. There will be blood. Or at least money.

Kessler filed an antitrust suit in federal court against the NCAA and the five richest conferences on behalf of college football and basketball players. The suits asks for an injunction preventing the NCAA from enforcing rules limiting the amount of financial aid players can receive.

Kessler characterizes it as price-fixing, contending that the rules create artificial restraints that limit competition.

But Kessler isn’t looking to collect damages for the plaintiffs. Kessler is looking to get players paid.

And you have to admit, Kessler picked the right week to make his case.

The NCAA Tournament generates billions in TV rights, sponsorships, ticket sales, merchandise and more --- revenue generated by unpaid workers.

No, wait, student-athletes. That’s what the NCAA calls them. That’s how the NCAA introduces them at the postgame pressers:

“Does anyone have any questions for the student-athletes?’’

Why, yes. Yes, I do. Have you guys thought about striking these games --- just walking out, refusing to play one or all of them --- until you get paid?

That’s my idea of picking the right week to make a case.

The NCAA characterizes its environment as amateur while demanding billions the way professionals do. So, if school is the place to learn, then I say the student-athletes should put that lesson to use:

The should refuse to play Thursday’s and Friday’s games, or play the games Thursday but not after that until the issue is settled and they hear the cha-ching.

I got your one shining moment right here, NCAA.

If the No. 1 rule in life is follow the money, then No. 2 has to be using leverage to get it. Thursday and Friday are leverage. If players aren’t getting paid, then nobody else will, either.

It’s not a new argument, but the fairness issue remains topical and litigious.

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter put his name and voice on an attempt to unionize college athletes. The movement got attention, but convinced no one outside of family members that it was the way to go.

Kessler makes a more convincing case, pointing out “how fundamentally unfair it is to look at a team in the NCAA tournament, where the coach is making $5 million, the school is generating hundreds of millions, sponsors are cashing in, admininstrators are cashing in, and the only group that is not receiving any benefit are these athletes --- most of who will not graduate and most of who will never be a professional athleletes. This is their one opportunity to be recognized and compensated.’’

But making a federal case out of it could take a while to make a difference. Striking games right now, today, all weekend wouldn’t. Talk about your brackets being ruined.

Some players have told stories they don’t get enough money to buy food. I don’t know how much of that is true, but by refusing to play Thursday or Friday, they’d certainly have the NCAA by the franks and beans.

CHICAGO

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