I will say this for the much-maligned David Gregory era of Meet the Press: the weekly program, with the tenacity of a twitter-troll, remains pugnaciously beltway-centric in its perspective. This was seen in Sunday’s “debate” about the state of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Their timing was certainly spot-on. It is March Madness, after all, when the NCAA makes 90% of its billion-dollar budget. As the business of college football and basketball expands, and as more and more players find themselves used up and spit out with neither compensation nor education to show for their time, this is the moment to talk about the future of the so-called “student-athlete.”
To discuss this issue, Gregory secured three people for the Meet the Press table, including NCAA President Mark Emmert. That's good start! Mark Emmert, is a man who makes a $2 million annual salary defending the status quo. The people Emmert could have been in discussion with is tantalizing. Maybe we would see civil rights author Taylor Branch, whose piece on the NCAA rocked the sports world. Perhaps one of the other guests would be New York Times columnist William Rhoden, whose book $40 Million Slaves examined the social position of African-American athletes. Or we could get USA Today’s Christine Brennan, who has written extensively about equity for women in college athletics.
Instead, according to David Gregory’s twitter feed, the Meet the Press team wanted to bring in some former jocks. That is a great call! There are numerous ex-college players who have been actively organizing to wrest a degree of justice from the clutches of Mark Emmert. Maybe they booked former All-American Ed O'Bannon, who has led a lawsuit against the NCAA’s use of player’s likenesses without their permission. Or perhaps they would bring on Ramogi Huma, a onetime UCLA football player who started the National College Players Association. We could hear from a former NCAA athlete who is a woman, like Kate Fagan, who could speak to issues of Title IX and how paying certain athletes could affect others. Or best yet, Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter, who led his team to actually organize a union. America could hear from the young man who said, “Right now the NCAA is like a dictatorship. No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union.”
No. Instead, Gregory brought in President Barack Obama’s personal aide Reggie Love and President Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Love apparently played basketball and football at Duke, and Duncan hooped it up for Harvard. Forget for a moment that I am a sports junkie and have no memory of the Reggie Love Experience in Durham. Forget that Duncan's Harvard playing days in the 1980s are hardly germane to the very modern issues at play. It speaks to either the poverty of ideas at Meet the Press or their immersion in beltway establishment culture that David Gregory and friends thought, "We need some former NCAA players to take on Mark Emmert. I know! Where are Reggie Love and Arne Duncan?”