Shabazz Napier, the basketball star who led UConn to victory in the NCAA men’s basketball championship last night, has gained a lot of media attention, not only from the win but also from his recent comments regarding college athlete poverty.
In a recent interview with Fox Sports, Napier claimed that he is so poor he can’t afford to buy food. If it were not for the college cafeteria food, he wouldn’t eat at all. He stated “We as student athletes get utilized for what we do so well. We are definitely blessed to get a scholarship to our universities, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t cover everything. We do have hungry nights that we don’t have enough money to get food and sometimes money is needed. When you see your jersey getting sold, it may not have your last name on it, but when you see your jersey getting sold and things like that, you feel like you want something in return. To some credit, you feel like you want something in return. Like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I am starving. So something can change, something should change”.
After UConn’s victory on Monday night, Napier continued to make comments about the struggles of some college athletes. He said “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re looking at the Hungry Huskies. Two years and hungry. Hungry Huskies!” Napier’s statements are having a lot of effect and making changes as we speak. Local politicians are supporting a move to unionize college athletes, and are looking toward Napier as a great example.
In Napier’s defenses, State Rep. Matthew Lesser said “He’s going to bed hungry at a time when millions of dollars are being made off of him. It’s obscene. 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”. UConn spokesman, Phil Chardis, denied Napier’s allegations and stated “Shabazz Napier, like all our scholarship athletes, is provided the maximum meal plan that is allowable under NCAA rules. UConn does not have a cafeteria devoted specifically to student-athletes, but they have access to the same cafeterias which are available to all our students. The university’s athlete handbook notes that students with a meal plan have access to all-you-can-eat dining facilities open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m”.
Last month, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players at Northwestern have the right to form the first ever labor union in college sports. However, UConn is appealing the decision.