On Monday night the University of Connecticut men’s basketball won the NCAA men’s national basketball championship thanks in part to the stellar play of guard Shabazz Napier, a senior who’s stuck with the program through lengthy NCAA punishments. He plays for a program that’s one of the most celebrated in college basketball and brings in millions of dollars in revenue each year. But Napier apparently still goes to bed hungry.
Napier made his admission on before UConn’s big game on Monday when asked about his thoughts on the Northwestern football team’s attempts to form a union. From CNN:
In a recent interview with reporters, Napier called the Northwestern union ruling “kind of great” and said that while he appreciates his basketball scholarship, it doesn’t cover all of his expenses.
“I don’t feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving,” he said.
His comments come amid news that Northwestern’s football players face a steep uphill battle in their efforts to unionize and may, in fact, not have all of the votes they need on April 25, when the team will cast ballots with the National Labor Relations Board. It’s widely anticipated that even if Northwestern’s players decide against a union, other athletes at different colleges are ready to take up their own battles.
Napier’s comments are also significant given the history of UConn’s program. Back in 2009, former Huskies coach Jim Calhoun’s $1.6 million annual salary was criticized for making him the highest paid public employee in a state whose economy was still in shock from the Great Recession. Calhoun responded to the criticism by arguing that his program brought in at least $12 million in revenue to the school, very little of which goes to the actual players whose labor put the school on the map.