The “Student Athlete Thinker” cartoon represents the ignorance of college athletes about NCAA rules, and depicts how this unawareness leads them to be mistreated and taken advantage of for their talents and entertainment without being properly compensated.
The black and white cartoon created by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch features a college football player placed on a pedestal in front of two significantly smaller-in-size college professors. Attention is immediately drawn to the football player that is looking at a book entitled “NCAA Econ 101” with a seemingly blank and confused stare. The two professors at the bottom of the screen are glancing up at the football player, who is serving as a monument for people to look up to. The professors exclaim with panic in the dialogue portion of the cartoon that, “if he ever reads that book, he’ll start demanding that [they] pay him.”
The NCAA Economics book, coupled with the football player, acts as a focal point for which the subject and theme emerge. The concept of money within the NCAA is an ever-present debate today, but college athletes often times have no say, and little knowledge about how they fit in with these themes. The football player, however, has money signs on his shoulder pads, which insinuates that he knows that with all the pressures placed literally on his back, he should be paid for the so-called “job” that is playing a college sport. But still, his confused daze suggests he is still ignorant of his unfair treatment.
Because the football player is significantly larger than the other figures and the artist makes use of a hierarchical style, he is portrayed to be above, both figuratively and literally, average people, especially within the college or university. This technique is used to show how college level athletes are still treated as more important than average students, but they still are expected to be uninformed and dumb when it comes to understanding academic concepts.
The football player, whose demeanor and body language suggest that he is harmless and childlike, seems confused by the text in the Economics book because he is just realizing the business that runs NCAA athletics, and how skewed and unfair the treatment of the athletes is. In this cartoon, the panic of the professors that a student-athlete could potentially realize how the NCAA functions proves that a student-athlete isn’t fully aware of his or her significance, and how he or she is not fairly compensated and appreciated for their talents. While they may be placed on a pedestal and treated as a celebrity of sorts, their undying dedication to their respective college sports should entail them to a form of compensation, especially considering the financial circumstances of the NCAA. The NCAA finds no harm in making money off of college-athletes, and the association gets away with putting on a guise of being “all about the athletes”, while in reality they do nothing to create a mutual and reasonable relationship with athletes.
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