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May 19, 2021

"A good, hard working kid." "A 4.0 student." "He's asking for too much money." "They get paid to play a child’s game." "He shows up and does his work and never complains."
Despite the fact that the concept of paying college athletes has gained some mainstream support in recent years, much of the ideological scaffolding that exists to justify their lack of fair compensation is still very popular and widespread in sports punditry and writing, AM radio and play-by-play broadcasts.
Scrutinizing GPAs and work ethic, talking about how "kids" are "becoming men," racialized claims of lazy or ungrateful players, and wildly different double standards for players and owners for when they attempt to maximize their economic interests all prop up a system that, despite liberal hand-wringing and box checking concern for not paying players at the highest levels, still relies on withholding compensation from college athletes for their labor.
The stakes go beyond just sports. This conservative cultural contempt for athletes as a whole mirrors and informs that of other workers as well. Whenever, say, nurses organize for better pay and safer working conditions or, in the era of COVID, teachers unions seek to continue virtual rather than in-person classes for the sake of public health, they’re dismissed as self-interested and domineering.
On this episode, we parse the racist, anti-labor characterization of athletes in media, how they are both scary threatening men and tiny children whose should be paid and breakdown how this topic has cultural implications to other labor struggles, by informing and reinforcing anti-union tropes across the board Our guest is Penn State professor Amira Rose Davis, co-host of Burn It All Down.