This is the type of story which illuminates not just the NCAA’s hypocrisy, but its malevolence as well. Antione Turner is a football player for Boise State University who has endured an incredibly traumatic life. Now, he is currently enduring a summer without a roof over his head.
Why? Because the NCAA, which hauls in approximately $1 billion annually, has rules which prohibit anyone from give money or aid of any kind to a football player for a school which makes over $15 million annually on its football program.
His mother died of cancer when he was four, and he and his father weren't close. Turner was in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina, eventually ending up in California at a junior college, living with his girlfriend and her family before moving in with his uncle. Due to government housing regulations, Turner can't stay at his uncle's place, and he isn't going to Boise State for summer school until June 6. So, he's currently homeless.Naturally, when Boise State fans learned about Turner’s unspeakable condition, they reached out to help, wanting to find him shelter, wanting provide him with food, wanting to give him the support nobody else at Boise State University had provided because, according to NCAA rules, to do so would be to violate college football’s prohibition against players receiving ‘impermissible benefits’ of any kind.
The response was so overwhelming that Boise State University’s compliance office was forced to send the following letter for KTVB to broadcast in Boise.
We need to make it clear to your viewers and Bronco fans that it is NOT permissible within NCAA rules for boosters of Boise State athletics to provide benefits to Mr. Turner. That would include money, loans, gifts, discounts, transportation costs, etc.It is treatment like this, and rules such as these, which lay at the heart of a movement amongst college football players, begun at Northwestern University, to unionize. College football brings in staggering revenues for both the NCAA and big-time university programs, doing so by taking advantage of an unpaid labor force. Most college football players, or student-athletes, must ‘work’ for 50-60 hours a week at their ‘job’ in addition to being expected to attend classes.
While Mr. Turner's need is abundantly clear, it is not permissible for Boise State, the athletics department or supporters of the athletics department to assist Mr. Turner at this time. Once Mr. Turner arrives on campus for the start of the summer school program, he will be well taken care of—receiving full tuition, room and board, books, fees etc. In the meantime, the compliance office is exploring a potential waiver with the NCAA that would allow us to provide assistance prior to the start of summer school.
It is for this reason that the National Labor Relations Board in March ruled that college football players at Northwestern University could indeed form a union, classifying them rightly as university employees, and not just students. It’s a decision that is being vigorously fought by the NCAA and university programs, scared of what such a shift in the landscape might do to their bottom lines and their control over this captive work force.
In the meantime, Turner must remain homeless until school starts while the NCAA spends millions to fight against college football players’ rights to, well, fight for their rights.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.
After Boise State's request last night, the school may provide immediate assistance to football student-athlete Antoine Turner.— NCAA (@NCAA) May 14, 2014
Boise State University is currently trying to get a waiver from the NCAA in order to help out Turner. This from Yahoo! Sports on his situation:Turner played last season at Fullerton Junior College in California. After arriving there, he met his girlfriend and stayed with her family for over a year. He subsequently moved in with his uncle, but because of government housing regulations, he can't stay with him any longer.
Until he enrolls at Boise in June, he's planning on staying in motels when he can afford it and his girlfriend's car when he can't.
It's not the first time Turner has been homeless at Fullerton, either. When he arrived, he was carrying only "a suitcase and a dream" and without any money or help, initially slept on a park bench, where he dropped to 220 pounds after he initially weighed 290.
“I ain't never really had no blanket or nothing like that,” he said. “So I could either lay across this or I would sit (with my arms folded) and lay my head down. I constantly wake up, look around, make sure everything was good.”