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Kentucky Senator Rand Paul Is Opposed To New Antitrust Laws In College Sports

 |  July 11, 2023

On Tuesday, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul made a bold statement that drew criticism from across the political spectrum. At a hearing for a PGA-LIV Golf merger, Paul expressed strong opposition to antitrust laws in college sports, claiming that allowing players to monetize their “Name, Image, and Likess (NIL) rights would lead to basketball players becoming “rap stars” instead of “basketball stars”.

Paul, a long-time lawmaker, expressed disappointment that amateur athletes can no longer compete without being paid. “Many of us loved watching amateur athletes that weren’t paid,” Paul said. “Now everybody that plays basketball in college is gonna be driving a Bentley or a Rolls. I mean, we’re gonna be seeing rap stars instead of basketball stars.” This statement caused a stir on social media, with many decrying Paul’s seemingly racist undertones.

Sports radio host Matt Jones, who is not a fan of Paul but who nevertheless denounced his comment, stated: “To pick out one group of athletes making money (basketball players) and say they are now ‘rap stars’ is totally about race. He doesn’t mention Football, Baseball, [or] women athletes or say they are ‘Rock stars.’ It’s pitiful.”

Read more: As The NCAA’s Antitrust Battle Intensifies, 2021 Could Bring Monumental Change To College Sports

Journalist David Gardner also questioned Paul’s stance as a supposed free-market capitalist, tweeting: “Free market capitalist Rand Paul wants to prevent people from making money on the free market.”

Amid the criticism, many have come out in favor of Paul’s views. Most notably, Kentucky Wildcats basketball coach John Calipari said that he believed NIL should be “transformational, not transactional.” Calipari suggested that players should be able to use some NIL money to take care of their families, while the rest should be put into a trust fund upon the student-athlete leaving school.

Although Sen. Paul’s comments have been attacked from all sides, his sentiment that college sports have lost some of their magic is not without merit. For years, the entire amateur athletics system was built on the backs of labor that wasn’t being paid, most of the prominent sports like football and men’s basketball being the cash cows for universities and built on the backs of predominantly Black players. The concept of not paying your labor and keeping them broke, while athletic programs rake in millions and millions of dollars does have a racial aspect to it.

At the same time, Paul also conceded that there are legitimate questions surrounding the PGA Tour-LIV merger that reportedly includes Saudi Arabian funding. But Paul concluded that the US government should not involve itself in the process,

“I find no grounds for government to be involved in the game of golf,” he said.

What is clear, however, is that Paul has called attention to a trend that was bound to happen sooner or later. The discussion around NIL has always had a racial undertone, and it is perhaps time that we listen to it. Should college athletes be allowed to make money? Should they be given the same economic freedoms as professional athletes? These are questions that cannot be answered by a single Senator’s comments, rather, they should be the center of a much larger conversation.