It is college basketball’s favorite time of year, March Madness! It is also the NCAA’s favorite time of year. The non-profit organization rakes in big bucks from essentially free labor. While the NCAA may be all smiles financially, the organization has endured a public relations nightmare. Since the beginning of March Madness, the NCAA has been subject to some pretty heavy criticism via Twitter.
First, the NCAA faced well-founded criticism due to a commercial depicting a fairytale life for college athletes. The NCAA also faced criticism stemming from two tweets. In one tweet, the NCAA completely disregarded the women’s March Madness tournament. Lastly, the NCAA was criticized for a tweet from 2016. In that tweet, they seemingly boasted providing a benefit to college athletes that should be a given.
The “Student-Athlete” Day in the Life Commercial
The NCAA released a commercial intending to depict a day in the life of a college athlete.
In the above video, the athlete starts out in bed, goes straight to class, and then to practice. After practice, the athlete mingles with friends before playing in his game. After the game, the athlete studies before winding down to get a good night sleep. The athlete appears to be coasting through his day with no stress and no worries. He appears to have no problem balancing the challenges and responsibilities of being a student with those of being an athlete.
In sum, the commercial depicts a very false narrative of a perfect college athlete life. A life where college athletes maintain the perfect balance between academics, athletics, and social time. Anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to college athletics knows that the commercial cannot be representative of reality. It logistically does not make sense, especially when just one factor is considered. That factor is travel time for games. The miles between each game simply do not add up.
The Commercial is not a True Representation
Consider the makeup of the Big 10 Conference. The Big 10 is made up of schools on the East Coast and the Midwest. Maryland and Rutgers are on the East Coast while Nebraska and Wisconsin are in the Midwest. When travel alone time is considered, there is no way that the depiction in the commercial can be accurate. There is no way college athletes are almost always able to leave their game, study, mingle with friends, and get sufficient sleep. This is especially true when early morning training sessions, team meetings, regular practice time, and individual practice time are added to the equation. Individual practice time is necessary to stay on top and earn playing time. Based on these factors alone, there is no way the commercial can be an accurate representation.
The Commercial’s Inaccuracy Led to a Twitter Firestorm
Twitter instantly criticized the NCAA and the commercial. Everyone from college athlete rights advocates to pro athletes criticized the NCAA for the commercial. Some made videos of what is a more accurate representation of the daily life of a college athlete.
Current college athletes criticized the commercial, saying that it simply is not true. The commercial is completely unrealistic and only serves one purpose. That purpose is to further promote the sham of amateurism.
The NCAA was Rightfully Criticized for Their Tweet Ignoring the Women’s March Madness Tournament
The NCAA again faced well-deserved criticism when they made a tweet completely disregarding the women’s basketball tournament. Even WNBA star Breanna Stewart commented on the NCAA’s total disregard for the women’s tournament.
The tweet stated that they were no more March Madness games happening until Thursday. However, this was not true. The women’s basketball tournament was in full swing during the gap days of the men’s tournament. The NCAA again was instantly faced with another Twitter firestorm.
With that tweet, the NCAA showed how they really view the women’s tournament. The NCAA could have taken the days that the men were not playing as an opportunity to promote the women’s tournament. Instead, they completely disregarded the women’s tournament and further promoted the men’s tournament. This marketing misstep leads one to question just how much does the NCAA really value Title IX and creating equitable opportunities for women’s sports? Or is Title IX just another tool in the NCAA’s belt to justify not sharing more of the college athletics revenue with the athletes?
The WiFi Tweet From 2016
The NCAA was forced to address a tweet from 2016 where they stated that they provide free Wifi to particpants in the March Madness tournament.
When the tweet resurfaced, it appeared that the NCAA was boasting about providing athletes with a resource that should automatically be given. However, the NCAA clarified that they made the tweet in 2016 to address accounts that college athletes did not have the WiFi access needed to complete their assignments. The NCAA’s tweet was in response to a tweet from a college basketball player in 2016 who tweeted about not having internet access to do his school work.
However, the real issue is in the fact that such a tweet was even necessary at all. It should have never been a question about whether the NCAA made sure that the participating athletes had everything they needed. After all, the NCAA prides its self on providing college athletes an opportunity to get an invaluable education. However, the NCAA and the college athletics system as a whole has been under much criticism for its inability to live up to the reality of that ideal. It is precisely for that reason, that an old tweet from 2016 can resurface in 2019 and instantly cause another Twitter firestorm for the NCAA.
The NCAA Could Avoid These Firestorms if They Shared the Wealth
The NCAA could save itself from a lot of these Twitter firestorms by sharing more revenue with college athletes. If the NCAA allowed college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness, their image would improve drastically. However, the NCAA is unlikely to ever do that. The NCAA certainly will not do that while they are fighting to reclaim the ability to limit the amount of education-related benefits college athletes can receive. It seems that the NCAA prefers to fight PR nightmares than to give college athletes a more equitable piece of the pie.