He acknowledged in an interview the challenges, including the relatively short time spans that college athletes actually are college athletes, as well as their current lack of formal bargaining power. But he insisted that player action was the surest avenue to change.
“There are powers here that the athletes have,” he said, “and we have to simply have them realize it and help them take the power into their own hands.”
Ros Gold-Unwude, a Turner Sports analyst and former Stanford basketball player, said last month that she expected to hear more from college athletes about how they felt about their position in the pecking order.
“That’s the way our culture is, where we all are telling our stories on social media platforms,” she said.
“If you’re really struggling or hungry,” she added, “that experience will come out.”
Apathy will come out as well, though. Beyond the structural obstacles to athletes deciding the system is unfair and determining to act to change it, a player could validly decide that he is happy receiving what he currently gets.
Napier, who is now a reserve on the Nets and who through a spokesman declined to comment for this article, said more during his “hungry nights” speech heard ‘round the world, even though it received less publicity.
He noted that there were other wrongs. Players’ jerseys were sold to fans, and the players did not receive a cut. More basically, he said, the players were not paid.
It was, he suggested, wrong. Probably.
“Something can change, something should change,” Napier said five years ago. “But if it doesn’t, at the end of the day, we’ve been doing this for so long.”