The NFL and NBA should be brought before the Supreme Court.
By Bill Smith
Where is the ACLU when you really need them? The rules against players going pro in basketball and football straight out of high school are illegal and violate the US Constitution. Of course based on the Supreme Court’s failure to strike down limits on political speech established by Campaign Finance Reform indicates that the Constitution and Bill of Rights doesn’t mean much anymore.
I am not taking a position that a year or two of college is necessarily bad for young men although given the state of public education it is hard to believe that they are all prepared for college. And I would agree that the vast majority of players are not ready for the NBA out of high school and very few are ready for the NFL. That is not the point.
The point is that not even the government let alone professional leagues or player unions have the right to prevent a player from pursuing his or her chosen profession as long as that profession is league.
The excuses given by the most recent court for upholding the right of the NFL to prevent players from entering the draft only 2 years out of high school were the following. First, that the rules were intended to protect players from injury. Next the rules were implemented prevent mistakes by the players who thought they were ready but were not good enough and would not succeed. Finally, the collective bargaining agreement prohibits these players from joining the league or the union. The agreements between players and the league are not subject to labor laws.
Protection of players from injury—This sounds really good until you look at some of the athletes that have come directly out of high school and played in the NBA. Are you going to tell me that LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and even Greg Oden aren’t physically ready for the league? Oden’s injury problems started at Ohio State and those injuries threaten his career.
Injuries happen in sports even to strong veterans. But it is not up to the league to play Mommy and Daddy for the players. That is not their role and not their right.
Prevent mistakes by the players who are not good enough—Again, this sounds like a good idea. However, it is not a role of the league, the courts or anyone except the player and his advisors to decide when a player is ready for the big time. Once a player makes his decision it is up to the teams to decide if the player is ready or not by drafting or signing him or not.
There are hundreds of players drafted by the NBA and thousands of NFL want to be players that were drafted have failed to make teams. Few other professions separate those that can from those that can not faster and more effectively than sports. There is no guarantee of success regardless of how many years of college experience a player has.
Collective bargaining agreement prohibits these players from joining the league or the union—This is the most ridiculous argument of all. First, these people are not members of the union or subject to the rules of the league. Neither the league nor the union have any right to establish rules about these players. They do so to protect relationships with colleges which become a no cost farm system for the sports.
In addition, someone must test the constitutionality of the concept. No contract can trump the US Constitution no matter what pin head lawyers might try to convince us of.
The fact is that some people have no interest in going to college. One of the consequences of the NBA’s one year out of high school rule is that some players are going to play in Europe or other countries. Why should US players have to go to foreign nations to follow their chosen profession in what is supposed to be a free country?
The rules in the NBA and NFL have been established by those that think the average player and his parents are too stupid to know what is best. Only the “professionals” know what is best for the kids. That is a violation of the US Constitution. It has ruined the lives of several players that tried to challenge the rules and failed to have deep enough pockets to put the leagues in their place.
When government or other “experts” get in the way of free enterprise disaster is sure to follow. Look what the political aims of the Congress’ good intentions did to economy of the world. The people make enough mistakes—we don’t need Congress or a professional league or union to make them worse.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .
My email is [email protected]