Juneteenth and Supreme NCAA News
This post was originally made on 6/23/21
Welcome to The Bloch,
As I’m sure you’ve heard, President Biden signed into law a new federal holiday last Thursday: Juneteenth National Independence Day has officially been recognized. For those who may have missed this day in history class, or, more likely, it was never taught in your history class, here’s a quick rundown on the holiday.
In the third year of the Civil War, on January 1st, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which stated:
“…all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”
While white-centric American history favors this event and puts President Lincoln on a pedestal due to it, the reality of the situation is that many slaves were, in fact, not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Hell, the proclamation only actually even attempted to free the slaves in the states that were in rebellion. In the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Delaware, and Maryland (which were loyal to the Union and had not joined the Confederacy) slavery was not outlawed until the 13th Amendment became the law of the land in January of 1865.
In black-enlightened American history, the last slaves in the former Confederacy, in Galveston Texas, finally got news of the Emancipation Proclamation and got their freedom on June 19th, 1865. The holiday commemorating this event originated in Galveston, and celebrations of the anniversary date back to the very first one in 1866. The holiday has been historically referred to as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day.
The official recognition of Juneteenth is something we should all be able to celebrate as Americans. After all, abolishing slavery was an American-led effort globally — the State of Vermont, which became an independent Republic after the American Revolution, became the first sovereign state to abolish slavery on July 2nd, 1777. The first sovereign nation to do it was France in 1848, and the USA was 17 years behind in 1865. In 1926 and in 1948, the United States along with other nations have continued the fight for human rights outlawing slavery internationally in the League of Nations and the United Nations respectively.
Unfortunately, the recognition of Juneteenth is just virtue signaling by the government, and many of my Black friends have been quick to point out that the addition of this national holiday does nothing to actually solve the racial injustice that is pervasive throughout American society. While I do agree with this sentiment, I also think we should take a moment to appreciate that at least our government is signaling the right virtues again.
A prime example of the racial injustices that I am referring to fell into my lap with the Supreme Court ruling on the NCAA on Monday. At issue in NCAA v. Alston is the 115-year-old NCAA having strict controls on the compensation of student-athletes. The beginning of the case reads:
“Colleges and universities across the country have leveraged sports to bring in revenue, attract attention, boost enrollment, and raise money from alumni. That profitable enterprise relies on “amateur” student-athletes who compete under horizontal restraints that restrict how the schools may compensate them for their play. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) issues and enforces these rules, which restrict compensation for student-athletes in various ways. These rules depress compensation for at least some student-athletes below what a competitive market would yield.”
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the NCAA and for the first time in over 30 years weighed in on the governance of college sports.
Justice Kavanaugh wrote: “The NCAA is not above the law… [the amateur label] cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA’s business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America.”
And this case is not the only one. “Politicians in 19 states have passed laws in the past two years that rebuke the organization’s rules and will soon allow athletes to start making money from third-party endorsements, and members of Congress are currently debating at least a half-dozen bills aimed at reforming the NCAA.”
In my opinion, this ruling doesn’t go nearly far enough. A paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research comes to the conclusion that ‘the NCAA’s long-standing policy prohibiting profit-sharing with college athletes effectively allows wealthy White students and coaches to profit off the labor of poor Black ones.’ In 2013, less than 3% of full-time undergraduates pursuing degrees were Black men, while 57% of college football players and 64% of college basketball players were Black men. High-profile college football and basketball coaches make millions of dollars every year, while the guys risking their future careers in the trenches don’t make a dime. Until all college athletes are explicitly allowed to profit off of their own name, image, and likeness, and there is profit-sharing from the televised games to the players on the field and the court, we don’t have anything that looks remotely like “the right thing to do” from where I sit.
So again, in the example of this Supreme Court ruling on NCAA v. Alston, we have mainly virtue signaling and not getting to the bottom of the issue. As always, there is more that needs to change. That said, as with the official recognition of Juneteenth, I believe we should take a moment to celebrate the virtue-signaling as progress. Let’s celebrate the steps we take in the right direction, even if some consider them to be baby steps.
Until next time.