Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Says College Athletes Must Be Paid in Crossfire Interview

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2014

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 15:  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attends the Sears Shooting Stars Competition 2014 as part of the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend at the Smoothie King Center on February 15, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar enjoyed one of the greatest college basketball careers in history under the name Lew Alcindor. While Abdul-Jabbar wasn't paid for what he accomplished at UCLA, he believes it is time for a change.

In an interview segment on CNN's Crossfire with Newt Gingrich and Van Jones, the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks legend discussed the unfair nature of college athletics:

Abdul-Jabbar pointed to the fact that the athletes are responsible for generating incredible amounts of revenue.

It's a $6 billion a year industry. Last year, CBS and TBS split up $1 billion just off of March Madness. There's so much money being made and the people who are creating this wealth do not get to participate and they don't get to graduate.

Abdul-Jabbar was flanked by USA Today's Christine Brennan who had a different take on the situation. While Brennan didn't necessarily shoot down the concept of paying athletes completely, she pointed out the obvious issues that could arise with all athletes likely wanting a piece of the pie.

Brennan referenced Title IX, which ensures equality in collegiate athletics under federal law.

If we're going to start paying the football players, we have to pay the field hockey players, and we have to pay the men and women swimmers, and we have to pay the lacrosse players, softball players, baseball players...There is no doubt in my mind that the moment we start to just pay football players and men's basketball players you would have 12 lawsuits the first day and you'd have 12 the next day. And every school would be sued.

Despite the presence of Title IX, Abdul-Jabbar believes that those who are primarily responsible for generating money should be the beneficiaries.

Football and basketball are on national TV. They generate money for all of these national sponsors and advertisers. It's incredible how much money is being made. The president of the NCAA makes $1.7 million a year, yet the people who are performing and generating this cash do not get to participate in any way.

Pay for play in college sports has been a hot-button issue for many years. One camp believes that a free education is payment enough, while others like Abdul-Jabbar view it as an injustice.

Ultimately, the situation isn't black and white. There are so many moving parts and underlying factors that make this a complicated issue. As Brennan mentioned, Title IX is chief among them.

March Madness is an absolutely huge money-maker for the NCAA, and fan interest seems to be greater than ever before. As the tournament gets bigger and bigger, so do the television deals and the profits that come along with it.

Abdul-Jabbar is clearly of the belief that major college athletes are being exploited by the NCAA, but there are a lot of obstacles that must be overcome in order to make any significant changes.

In full disclosure, it should be noted that Bleacher Report is owned by Turner Sports and benefits financially from March Madness. 

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