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Sports have historically been a wonderful source of leadership lessons. They’ve even occasionally led the way on social issues, like racial integration – from Jackie Robinson’s baseball breakthrough to the South African rugby team’s historic world-cup victory (both celebrated in recent films) to Texas Western’s improbable 1966 NCAA basketball championship.
This is surely part of the reason that business people tend to be sports fans – we look to sports for inspiration as much as for entertainment. We appreciate that, just as with quarterly earnings reports, there is a clarity about who’s winning and losing. And we love the surprise opportunities for Cinderella stories — now an annual occurrence during March Madness.
Unfortunately sports can also be pretty uninspiring sometimes. Take the recent news that Northwestern University student-athletes want to unionize. They’re led by former football players who say the university rakes in cash – from ticket sales, TV revenue, sponsorships, etc. – while the players, all full-time students, spend 40 hours a week (at least) training, practicing and playing football. Some don’t graduate. Others suffer injuries that can nag them for life.
The union drive – and the NLRB’s approval of the players’ petition to be classified as university employees – is part of a growing movement to rectify the inequity created by all the money generated by big-time college sports. A recent report showed that while Texas A&M spent about $120,000 on Heisman-Trophy winner Johnny Manziel’s education, it likely reaped hundreds of millions in donations, and as much as $37 million worth of media exposure. And this week, just a day after leading his team to the national-championship game, University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari released a book not only calling for players to receive stipends of up to $5,000 a year, but comparing today’s NCAA to the Soviet Union in its final years. “[Y]ou could see it crumbling,” Calipari writes, “and it was just a matter of time before it either changed or ceased to exist.” Read more on the story here.
Article by: Glen Tullman Contributor, Forbes.com