Jim Brown is not shy. The Hall of Fame running back has a long-established reputation as one of the most outspoken athletes in history, giving his experience and wisdom on the topics of race, gang culture and numerous other topics.
His latest target: the NCAA.
Speaking to a group at Saturday's Pro Football Hall of Fame Fan Fest, Brown called for a complete overhaul of college sports' governing body in a strongly worded and passionate critique.
"The NCAA is probably the most reprehensible organization God ever created," Brown said, per Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. "Total exploitation. The kind of money they make, the kind of life they live, it's embarrassing."
The subject came up when a fan discussed the lack of long-term medical coverage college athletes receive. Fellow Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Harry Carson also took part in the discussion, but Brown made it clear he phrased his criticism in a way to create a national ripple.
"I wanted to say it as harsh as I could, because I want them to come at me in any way they want to," Brown said. "Because it's a shame the way that it happens."
Brown's comments are merely the latest in a cascading wave washing over the NCAA. Calls for more adequate compensation, better medical coverage and other issues, such as the ability to profit off one's likeness, have grown almost as exponentially as the NCAA's profits. While there are some in Brown's position who once saw the value in the student-athlete arrangement, the governing body's ability to profit off largely unpaid labor has become one of the most hotly contested debates in sports.
Brown said the NCAA needs to be "torn apart" and rebuilt in a more mutually beneficial structure.
Recent high-profile cases brought against the NCAA signal that an overhaul could be coming sooner than later. In March, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern football players were employees of the university and could vote on unionization. The players cast their vote last month.
"We're one step closer to a world where college athletes are not stuck with sports-related medical bills, do not lose their scholarships when they are injured, are not subject to unnecessary brain trauma and are given better opportunities to complete their degree," former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter told reporters.
The result of the vote is still unknown.
At the same time, an ongoing case regarding player likeness brought forth by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon continues to play out in court. In February, a judge ruled against the NCAA's motion to throw the case out and said the two sides would proceed to trial. The governing body made its latest appeal last week, which could at the very least result in a delay, per CBS Sports' Jon Solomon.
While the litigation process is at times tiresomely slow, the court of public opinion is not. With tastemakers like Brown and other vocal leaders coming out against NCAA policy, the calls for action are only going to get louder.
The NCAA took its first small step last month, removing meal restrictions on student-athletes and allowing walk-ons to be afforded the same food as scholarship athletes. If people like Brown and Colter have their way, though, that will be just a minor step in a fundamental alteration of college sports as we know it.
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