By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
The NCAA recently created a new agency policy that requires agents to have a bachelors degree and to take mandatory tests at the place chosen by the NCAA to ensure athletes receive experienced counsel before forgoing their college eligibility.
Ultimately becoming known as the “Rich Paul Rule,” named after founder and CEO of Klutch Sports, Rich Paul, the burgeoning policy recieved immediate backlash after being publicized and critiqued by Paul’s top client, Lebron James. In less than a week since the NCAA has amended the policy, it’s final blow coming via an op-ed piece published in The Athletic and written by Paul himself.
After its amendment the policy now states that agents must be approved by the National Basketball Players Association in order to talk or do business with an eligible college athlete. Though the NCAA has amended the rule, the action does not dismiss the fact that the NCAA was doing everything they can to maintain a steady profit off these student athletes, and trying to cover up the racist realities that exposed the representation of young African-American athletes affiliated with the NCAA.
When you think about the term tradition, it is demonstrated as the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way. Traditions have been an important of the success in many people’s lives and the foundation for future success amongst families, but some traditions are meant to be broken based on the societal ways of life that constantly change from generation to generation.
The path to the professional level of basketball is a concept that has changed over the years and players are starting to find better ways to take advantage of the benefits the NBA has to offer. Agents like Paul have contributed to changing the game, generating new ways to fulfill players’ goals of playing professional competition without being forced to go the educational system, a system that historically does not fully support African-Americans.
Paul highlighted this unfortunate circumstance in his op-ed for the Athletic.
“NCAA executives are once again preventing young people from less prestigious backgrounds, and often people of color, from working in the system they continue to control,” Paul said.
During segregation, African-Americans played at historically black colleges/universities (HBCU). Once predominantly white institutions (PWI) began to integrate, blacks have not benefited from the educational system and even today, it shows that the motto of getting the kids an education is not as important as profiting money off these African-American players.
Black men made up 2.4% of the Power 5 student population but 55% and 56%, respectively, of its football and basketball teams. Of those numbers, 55% of black male athletes graduated in under six years, compared with 60% of black men in the overall undergraduate population and 76% of all college graduates, according to The Undefeated. Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons, another of Paul’s clients, can relate to the educational struggles for high ranked high school prospects, and even publicly stated how he did not go to class and only went to LSU to fulfill the requirement of the eligibility for the draft.
Since the implementation of the “1 and done” rule in 2005, a rule created raising the draft eligibility age to 19 for those wanting to play , many top high school products were forced to spend at least 1 year at a major college before heading to the pros. We all know that this not only brought hype and regularity back to college basketball, but also generated tons of revenue that none of the student athletes are going to receive.
Instead of playing in college for years of non-pay, players have recognized their value and explored the benefits of skipping college ball for professional basketball opportunities outside of the NBA to gain real experience that can aid to player development while making money for themselves.
Choosing a different path than that traditional route in basketball is nothing new. Former NBA player Brandon Jennings went overseas for a year after high school to pursue basketball development and get compensated for his work before going to the NBA. Today, various prospects are following those same steps Jennings took to pursue better opportunities. RJ Hampton, top high school prospect in the class of 2019, turned down college offers to play professional basketball in Australia.
Meanwhile, the famously abstract thinkers that are the Ball family have also stepping to their own rhythm in regards to drawing needed attention and leverage. LaMelo Ball has completely forgone the college route his brother Lonzo and LiAngelo Ball and chose to play in the same professional league Hampton is playing in to prepare for next year’s NBA draft.
Top high school prospect Darius Bazley originally committed to Syracuse for the 2019 season, but ultimately changed course, signed Paul as his agent and worked with him to secure a million dollar internship deal with New Balance that allowed him to study/receive hands-on experience in the field he wanted to pursue post basketball while also getting paid with the opportunity to train and prepare for eligibility for the 2019 NBA Draft.
In the Athletic op-ed, Paul striked the question, “Does anyone really believe a four-year degree is what separates an ethical person from a con artist?” The reality behind this question highlights the notion that just because you have a degree, does not mean that you are an ethical person. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and even our current President Donald Trump are all very rich and are operating top-tier businesses without college degrees.
In today’s generation, although it is ideal to have a higher education degree, it is not dier to have to achieve success at the highest levels of the world. People like Paul and Jay-Z, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are prime examples of ethical, educated Black men without degrees and true success, and are paving the way for young African American players to achieve their own versions of success.
The NCAA has made it clear that over time from generation to generation they have had a systematic issue with African-Americans and the original, intended implementation of the “Rich Paul Rule” was really just an added layer detailing the NCAA’s scarce involvement and care taken for Black men on and off the court.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media