July 29, 2005, - 5:37 am
By Debbie Schlussel
It’s rare that I agree with spoiled gazillionaires in the NBA. It’s even rarer that I sympathize with claims of racism in pro sports, usually trumped up. (I’ve been very critical of the NBA’s Thuggery, Inc.)
In this case, though, it’s two for two.
I agree with NBA player and Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O’Neal. In part.
O’Neal says the new NBA rule–that players can’t turn pro until age 19–is racist. I agree that it’s unfair. But more important, it’s also anti-capitalist, against the free market, a drain on taxpayers, and a whole bunch of other negative things. In general, capitalism and a free unfettered market correct racist tendencies–which tend to reduce maximum efficiencies and profit.
Before this new rule, players like LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, and O’Neal himself, could skip college and join the NBA upon turning 18–usually right after high school. Now they can’t.
Talk about an artificial restriction on the labor supply and the free market.
O’Neal says it’s wrong and unfair. “In the last two or three years, the rookie of the year has a been a high school player. There were seven high school players in the All-Star game, so why we even talking an age limit?” O’Neal said, according to NBC Sports.
“As a black guy, you kind of think that’s the reason why it’s coming up. You don’t hear about it in baseball or hockey.”
I partly agree. O’Neal is right that the NBA is now the strictest of the major league pro sports. Pro hockey’s NHL, for example, has a minimum age of 18, but many NHLers come from the professional Canadian Major Junior Hockey Leagues, where they’ve played since their earlier teens.
Also, the NHL, NBA, and Major League Baseball are entirely separate business entities. They make separate deals with their unions, and this new rule wouldn’t exist without the acquiescence by O’Neal’s union, the Black-dominated NBA Players Association.
The real double standard is public attitudes about turning pro–which vary depending upon the sport. But what’s more interesting is the political identity of those supporting these variant rules: liberals. More on that later.
I think it’s intellectually dishonest to tell a future O’Neal he shouldn’t turn pro until after a year of college, while no-one would bat an eyelash if golfing phenom Michelle Wie, 15, turned pro today. And she possibly could. The LPGA tour minimum is age 18, but players can petition the League for an exception to turn pro as early as age 18. To date, Wie has forgone at least $500,000 in earnings and millions more in endorsement deals. Morgan Pressel, another prodigy golfer at age 17, committed to attend Duke. Now she’ll probably go pro instead. But no-one begrudges her the choice.
Today’s Jermaine O’Neals won’t have that ability.
Why can’t teen-age basketball players–who largely come from the killing and welfare fields of America, not to mention, single-mother homes–have the same choice, the same chance to support their families, who need it more than those of the more well-off golfers?
Because anti-free market liberals have joined geeky, wanna-be-sports-exec college presidents in pressuring the NBA’s David Stern to create this rule. Stern’s NBA needs colleges as his free, tax-funded farm and developmental systems. So he gave in to them–allowing them to milk these wannabe pros for at least a year of TV rights and licensing, all while the athletes risk career-ending injuries. It doesn’t hurt, too, that the NBA Players Association, ruled by (again, mostly Black) veterans, isn’t the least bit repelled by the idea of keeping young competitors (for their jobs) out of the marketplace.
If you don’t believe me that liberals are the ones who support these absurd restrictions, take last Sunday’s “McLaughlin Group”–he old fogie pundit-fest well past its expiration date.
MSNBC liberal Lawrence O’Donnell declared that teen-age hoops players, like Kobe Bryant (one of only a few bad apples in the high schooler NBA crowd), are “too immature” to handle so much money, so young. Fellow liberal screecher, Eleanor Clift, echoed him–in her always obnoxious way–stressing the need for college.
Funny, I didn’t hear them whine this way about pro tennis’ Jennifer “the pot-smoking shoplifter” Capriati, Anna Kournikova, or Andre Agassi–all of whom turned pro in their teens. Deafening silence from them about Bill Gates dropping out of Harvard to start that failed effort called MicroSoft. No complaints from them about some of the “90210,” “Dawson’s Creek,” and “The O.C.” cast skipping college for greener pastures. Britney Spears and LeeAnn Rhimes, anyone?
It was a conservative, free-marketeer (if pan-Arabist sympathizer with “former” Nazis) Pat Buchanan who agreed with O’Neal–and me.
Who would get more out of college? Kobe Bryant or Michelle Wie? Which would just be passing the time at keg parties and off-campus strip clubs, courtesy of taxpayer-funded scholarships?
Remember the Fab Five at the University of Michigan? They did it all–managing to remain college basketball players and pro athletes at the same time–courtesy of booster/gambling king Ed Martin. When he was at Ohio State, NFL linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer took courses with the titles, “Golf” and “AIDS: What Every College Student Should Know.” Is this “scholarly” path a reason to keep him artificially out of the marketplace (the NFL’s age requirements are more draconian)? It was the only way to keep him eligible to play in college. Hint: He wasn’t there to study Socrates.
These days, it seems the only motivation for an athlete to get a degree is to get a job as an FBI agent if his sports career washes up. The FBI seems to love recruiting washed up jocks, because–as everybody knows–the ability to throw a pass, learn a silly playbook, or block a jump shot, means you will make a great investigator in criminal and life and death matters. Right?
Then, there’s the NBA’s Voshon Lenard. At the University of Minnesota, his history professor asked him why George Washington was considered a Founding Father. According to Sports Illustrated, Lenard responded, “George Washington . . . name sounds familiar. Can you give me a hint?”
Here’s a hint: The Founding Fathers wanted less government interference in our lives and less government tax burdens. Dropping the ridiculous NBA rule before it starts would do both–as we could avoid subsidizing a wasted year of partying and waiting for the likes of Lenard.
As Voshon Lenard demonstrated, college isn’t for everyone.
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