Last night, Connecticut‘s Shabazz Napier (pictured) was named the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four after racking up 22 points and pulling down six rebounds in Monday night’s NCAA championship game against Kentucky, but the NBA prospect recently told a group of reporters that he has gone to bed “starving” at times.
When Napier was asked about the efforts of athletes at Northwestern University to unionize, he said it was “great.”
“We’re definitely blessed to get scholarships to our universities, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t cover everything,” Napier told a group of reporters, adding later in the conversation, “I don’t think student athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but … there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving.”
A University of Connecticut spokesman told the Huffington Post that all of the school’s scholarship athletes, including Napier, receive the maximum meal plan allowed under NCAA rules.
“UConn does not have a cafeteria devoted specifically to student-athletes,” he added, “but they have access to the same cafeterias which are available to all our students.”
Napier’s remarks got the attention of Connecticut lawmakers who are considering legislation that would allow athletes at the University of Connecticut to unionize, according to My Fox 8. Northwestern is a private institution governed by the National Labor Relations Board, however, Connecticut law governs whether employees at a public institution can unionize.
“[Napier] says he’s going to bed hungry at a time when millions of dollars are being made off of him. It’s obscene,” State Rep. Matthew Lesser said. “This isn’t a Connecticut problem. This is an NCAA problem, and I want to make sure we’re putting pressure on them to treat athletes well.”
Watch Napier talk about being hungry below:
The conversation has added new life into the debate over whether or not college athletes should be paid. Here is more background on this issue, per My Fox 8:
Last month, the NLRB ruled that Northwestern football players should be considered employees because of the hours they put in, the control the university has over them and the revenue they generate.
But reaction was mixed, even among those who support NCAA reform.
On Saturday, for the first time, two leaders on the Northwestern team told reporters after a spring practice that they won’t vote to unionize, and head coach Pat Fitzgerald said he told his players he didn’t believe a union was in their best interest.
Hours later, NCAA President Mark Emmert called the idea “grossly inappropriate.”
“It would blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics,” he said.
The players at Northwestern, led by former quarterback Kain Colter and Ramogi Huma, founder of National College Players Association and the College Athletes Players Association, say they want better medical coverage, concussion testing, four-year scholarships that cover the entire cost of attendance and the possibility of being paid.
Northwestern is appealing the ruling to the national NLRB office and maintains that student-athletes are not university employees but “students, first and foremost.”
Huma has said the Northwestern ruling would have national implications, but he would not talk about whether other schools’ teams were planning to hold union votes.
At private schools like Duke and Stanford, the process would be similar to the path taken by Northwestern’s players. There have been indications that officials at those schools are closely monitoring what happens at Northwestern.
However, at public schools, the process would vary from state to state.
In light of Napier’s recent remarks, do you feel the case for paying college athletes and allowing them to unionize has been bolstered?