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Bob Good aims to ‘protect student-athletes’ by blocking employee status, union rights

Chris Graham
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Bob Good wants to block college student-athletes from being classified as employees, and is casting himself as working to prevent the tradition of college sports from being “ruined.”

The Fifth District Republican congressman, locked up in a tight primary battle entirely of his own making, because he dared to endorse Ron DeSantis, introduced a bill on Thursday that he is styling the Protecting Student Athletes’ Economic Freedom Act, which, seriously?

How is it “preserving student-athletes economic freedom” by blocking them from being able to get workplace protections as employees, and from being able to fight for themselves through unionization?

“My legislation will help maintain a balance between athletics and academics, ensuring that college sports programs remain viable, beneficial, and enjoyable for all student athletes,” Good said in a statement on Thursday.

The bill was introduced as the NCAA and the Power 5 conferences agreed to allow schools to directly pay student-athletes, as part of a proposed multibillion-dollar deal to settle three pending federal antitrust cases in which the power-conference programs are ready to pay out as salaries an amount equal to 22 percent of their average annual revenues.

If that sounds low, it is – athletes in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, all of which have unions representing their interests, get salaries in the aggregate equivalent to more than 50 percent of league revenues.

The press release from Good’s office casts him as a “former college athlete,” which he is – he was a wrestler at Liberty University – but more recently, he is a former college sports administrator, serving as an associate athletics director at his alma mater before his election to Congress in 2020.

The big losers in the proposed NCAA/Power 5 settlement, without a doubt, will be those who work in college sports administration, a bloated bureaucracy of the sort that Republicans like Good normally pretend to dislike.

Even at the low threshold of 22 percent of athletics department revenues going to student-athletes as salaries, we’re talking upwards of $20 million per year from mid-tier FBS programs, and closer to $50 million per year for top programs, which will necessitate cuts somewhere.

The so-called non-revenue sports will be at the top of the chopping block, with the layers of associate athletics directors trailing not far behind.

This is why Good is making this push, even as the NCAA and Power 5 schools are already acknowledging where things are headed.

He’s going to need a job to go back to when TrumpWorld beats him in the Fifth District primary next month.

At the least, the bill, if it were to make it to law – which is doubtful with a Democratic-majority Senate and a Democratic president, but we are in an election year, and there could be change on the horizon – would forestall further movement toward unionization, which is the only way student-athletes can address that absurdly low 22 percent revenue threshold.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].