Arizona’s Deandre Ayton Faces Ridicule En Route to March Madness

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During the PAC 12 tournament, Deandre Ayton walked into chants of “100,000” from the opposing student section. Sweating through the court, Ayton seemed to only be playing better despite the banter from the opposing fans. Knocking down free throws and swishing long bombs effortlessly across his 7’1″ frame. The “100,000” chants, represent the alleged amount paid to Deandre Ayton in exchange for bringing his talents to the University of Arizona.

A more lengthily investigation will surely be conducted by the NCAA, but as of now, allegations have drawn ridicule to students mentioned in the reports.

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Though Ayton and his family vehemently deny the allegations, the thought of vilifying these young talents, while simultaneously gluing our eyes to the screen, offers a conflicting message. These student-athletes, some still in their teenage years, are being accosted for allegedly accepting thousands of dollars to play for their respective college programs.

It begs the question, why are these young people being scapegoated when they benefit the least, and stand to lose the most, from the resulting violations?

Not only do these student-athletes risk tarnishing their pedigree as future professional athletes, but they also risk losing the vehicle designed to take them there. While the respective program’s coaches, staff and university facilities benefit in the tens of millions, these students walk away with “dirty money” in the thousands, and the promise of being seen in the professional ranks, a dream possible for only 19.1% of division 1 basketball players according to NCAA reports.

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However, as the crowds hurl these chants at Deandre Ayton and other “one and done” prospects, the NCAA has exercised the right to remain silent. With March Madness looming, the NCAA remains detached from the events disclosed by a multi-year FBI investigation. Whether that be clearing the players that may have been falsely mentioned in the report, or working to move forward with disqualifying players, the tournament goes on amidst a cloud of scandal and uncertainty.

The irony of teams mentioned in the report, advancing far into the tournament, is not lost on the viewer. Perhaps the backdrop of the FBI’s investigation and ensuing NCAA reaction, attracts viewers to continue indulging in the ups and downs of the NCAA basketball saga- an organization now arguably marred in more controversy and contention than most professional sports leagues.

With shoe companies and other vested interests working to capitalize on the image of athletes as young as twelve years old, something needs to be said about why the exploitative nature of “amateur” athletics remains intact.

As more tension is created surrounding the concept of amateurism, external forces lurk over the NCAA’s longstanding dominance in funneling Division 1 athletes to professional basketball teams.

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The NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA Players Association, have demonstrated an interest in expanding the G-League, which could increase international visibility and interest in the NBA affiliate. G-League salaries currently pay out a minimum of $25,000, with two-way contracts with NBA teams paying $75,000 salaries.

This shift could open the NBA up to potential relationships with “one and done” talent.

With young NBA level talent vying for attention and two-way contracts in the G-League, earnings could double or triple, serving as a lucrative alternative to completing a year of college or overseas play. A groundbreaking change that could reestablish the NBA as the launching pad and home stage for future superstars, without resuming the immediate pressure of performance previously associated with “one and done” prospects.

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It may be fair to suspect that after the NCAA generates hundreds of millions in estimated revenue from March Madness, they will then work to sanction the players, sponsors and program officials associated with yet another “pay for play” scandal. Strip teams of titles and disqualify athletes, all within the likely context that this scenario will only continue to repeat itself, as long as everyone but the student-athletes richly reap the benefits.

Halimo Hassen is a graduate student at Tsinghua University.
@halsawrites
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