March Madness, The NCAA, and the Ugly Underbelly of Kevin Ware's Broken Leg
Looking to support the Louisville Cardinals hoops team in the weekend’s Final Four Tournament? You may want to slap down $24.99 to purchase a “Rise Up #5 On Court T-Shirt” (so named for Kevin Ware, the player who horrifically broke his leg during last Sunday’s win versus the Duke Blue Devils). “A portion of the proceeds” of the Addidas shirt, the website notes, “directly benefits University of Louisville Athletics.”
Of coure, if you’re looking to support Kevin Ware, who suffered the awful injury, or his family, who could be saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, you probably don’t want to buy the shirt. Because neither Ware nor his family stand to benefit from this appalling exercise in heartstring consumption “disaster capitalism” (to invoke Naomi Klein’s phrase) at all.
“No non-profit does buccaneer profiteering quite like the NCAA,” Dave Zirin writes at The Nation. “What other institution would see a tibia snap through a 20-year-old’s skin on national television and see dollar signs? In accordance with their rules aimed at preserving the sanctity of amateurism, not one dime from these shirts will go to Kevin Ware or his family. Not one dime will go toward Kevin Ware’s medical bills if his rehab ends up beneath the $90,000 deductible necessary to access the NCAA’s catastrophic injury medical coverage. Not one dime will go towards rehab he may need later in life.”
Indeed, Ware’s college education is even in jeapardy, because the NCAA doesn’t guarantee the scholarships of its student-athletes in cases of physical injuries incured while playing the sports the organization makes millions from.
Louisville “won’t even say publicly, if rehab doesn’t go as planned, whether he’ll still have a scholarship waiting for him when he returns in the fall,” continues Zirin. “The official word from Louisville is that the question is irrelevant because “doctors are expecting a full recovery.””
No matter, though. “The multi-billion-dollar slop bucket of March Madness money,” Zirin notes, “which makes up 96 percent of the NCAA’s operating budget, will pay organization president Mark Emmert’s two million dollar salary as well as the paychecks for their 14 vice presidents, each of whom make at least $400,000 a year. They will also to be able to continue to pay off the mortgage on their new $50 million, 116,000-square-foot headquarters in Indianapolis.”
March madness, indeed.