Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 2, Episode 6 - The NCAA - full transcript

The NCAA doesn't pay students athletes because they are considered to be amateurs. They are considered to be amateurs because they don't get paid.

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Season II, episode 6

Welcome to Last Week Tonight.
I'm John Oliver.

Thank you for being with us.
A quick recap of the week.

And we begin with ISIS.
The Ebola of people.

They've had themselves a bit
of an up-and-down week

because on one hand, they were
driven out of Tikrit in Iraq,

but on the other hand,
they gained a new ally.

ISIS is expanding
to new territory in West Africa.

The group accepted an allegiance
from Nigeria based Boko Haram.

Yes, Boko Haram has apparently
pledged allegiance to ISIS.

You can't deny they do go together
like peanut butter and jelly.

Or more specifically, like diarrhea
and spoiled monkfish.

The merger was discussed
in terms that you would associate

with a more
traditional type of acquisition.

Boko Haram's Twitter account
featuring a slick new look.

With the brand that they get
with the Islamic State,

they can get more recruits,
more money and more media attention.

What ISIS gets out of this
is a major advance for their brand.

What ?
A major advance for their brand ?

You're talking about
two terror organizations,

not a merger between Stragglr
and The Daily Bounce.

I made up the names of two startups,
but you get the point.

But the fight against ISIS also got
an unexpected recruit,

because there was a benefit concert
in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq

featuring the last person
you'd expect.

I'm kind honored that this country
has basically paid attention to Nelly.

Nelly performed a concert in Erbil.
And I am glad he did.

If Nelly was in an Islamic country,
how would he be able to sing:

"it's getting hot in here,
so take off all your clothes,"

"I am getting so hot,
I'm gonna take my clothes off" ?

Then you now have an answer.

Those edits really change meaning
of that song because now

it's a man complaining about the heat
and proposing no solution.

That's not sexy. Moving on now
to Ireland, Europe's Boston.

Home of more red hair than
Debra Messing's shower drain.

Ireland had an interesting 24 hours,
following a bizarre court ruling.

The possession of a range
of psychoactive drugs

has been made legal temporarily
following a ruling by the appeal court.

The possession of drugs including
ecstasy, magic mushrooms

and so-called head shop drugs
is currently legal.

Multiple drugs were accidentally
legalized in Ireland for a day.

If you were waiting for ecstasy
to become legal before trying it,

you are not the type
who's going to really take to ecstasy.

You might want to stick with taking
Nyquil and spinning around.

It's basically the same.

But the best detail was the underlying
case that prompted the ruling

and I'll let an Irish newscaster
fill you in.

A case was brought here before
the court of appeal this morning

by a man prosecuted for possession
of the illegal high meow-meow.

there is a drug called "Meow Meow".

Side effects include aloofness and
a heightened interest in string.

You gotta try meow meow, bro.
The laser shows are incredible.

Finally this week we turn to Brazil.

Where even the Amazon rainforest
looks like it's gotten a wax.

President Dilma Rousseff is dealing
with a corruption scandal

which threatens to undermine
her entire government.

Brazil's supreme court approved
an investigation

into some of the top politicians,
they're accused of taking bribes

in exchange for lucrative oil contracts
from the state oil company, Petrobras.

This isn't your standard five grand
in an envelope left under a bench.

Brazil's largest construction
and engineering firms

allegedly paid $800 million in bribes
and other funds to secure contracts.

$800 million ! You'd need
an amazing construction firm

just to build a bench large enough
to hide that bribe.

30 members of Rousseff's ruling
coalition are under investigation,

so she took to the airwaves
to calm people down.

You have every right
to get irritated and be worried,

but I ask for patience,
this situation is transitory.

How is it transitory ? Unless
you're about to flash the country

with one of those memory-erasing
sticks from Men in Black,

I don't think people
are going to forget about this.

Brazilian's weren't listening to
her speech. For a loud reason.

Her critics organized a kind
of pot-banging protest.

I was in Sao Paulo,
it sounded like a football game.

People were banging their pots,
honking their horns.

That's a real form of protest
called Panelaco,

in South America for years
and off Broadway for decades.

It's so entrenched, it's taken place
on the floor of Brazil's legislature.

I love everything about that
but the best detail there

is the sign language interpreter.

Even he is banging
invisible pots in disgust !

If you think that Brazilians
are overreacting,

you should know this about Rousseff's
involvement in this scandal.

President Rousseff chaired the
board for Petrobras for seven years

when the corruption
is believed to have taken place.

She's been cleared
of involvement in the scheme.

How ? She chaired the board
of Petrobras while the bribes were...

There's only one way
to handle this.

And now this.

who don't know about you.

I don't know about you guys

but I've heard you're not
supposed to fight fire with fire.

I don't know about you
but I need a good kisser.

I don't know about you but I lived
in the 80s and the 90s and the 2000s.

I don't know about you but it turns
out I have been abusing a drug.

I don't know about you,
I ate a lot of hot dogs.

I don't know about you

but when I think of flirty talk it's
not of the racist nature.

I don't know about you but
I don't need lactation service.

Moving on: our main story
concerns the fact

that one of America's most sacred
annual traditions is upon us.

Everything comes down to this.

Bring the noise.

As good as it gets.

March is on.

Holy shit !
Yes, March is on !

Fuck you, February !
And April, I'll see you in hell !

It's March o'clock, assholes !

The first round of March Madness,
the year's biggest college tournament

starts on Tuesday and
the nation will be watching.

Which means big money.

March Madness now brings in over
a billion dollars in TV ad revenue.

A billion dollars ! That's more
than the Super Bowl.

It's almost more than the entire
NFL post-season, combined.

Seems a lot, until you consider
the number of ads they pack in.

Sponsored by Lexus.

AT&T at the half is presented
by AT&T.

Our game is brought to you
in HDTV by HP.

Coke Zero presents
real fans of NCAA March Madness.

Soon, the only thing left to sponsor
will be the sponsorships themselves.

Pepsi presents a Geico look at
Nabisco's Toyota moment of the game

brought to you by Taco Bell !

Everything about
this tournament is branded.

Even the famous moment
where players cut down the net.

Werner Ladder proud to donate
to the general scholarship fund

of every school in the final four.

Werner, the official ladder of
the NCAA basketball championships.

Are you kidding me ?
A Werner ladder ?

As a ladder enthusiast, I can tell you
Werners are pure shit.

Unless you want a broken back,
in which case go with Werner.

But you'd be better off slapping
on a pair of stilts on a yoga ball.

I'm a DeWalt man.
I'm not a ladder idiot.

There's nothing wrong with a sporting
tournament making huge amounts.

There is something troubling about
a billion dollar sports enterprise

where the athletes
are not paid a penny.

As the head of the NCAA will tell you,
they don't want that to change.

There's not even a salary to debate.
They're students.

They're not employees,
they're student athletes.

Student athletes are students,
they're not employees.

The only other people who say
they're not employees that much

are people who run illegal
sweatshops out of their basements.

They're not employees ! It's a summer
camp where they make the same t-shirt,

thousands of times,
it's summer fun, year-round.

When you don't pay people,
there are consequences.

One of the players who climbed
the ladder was Shabazz Napier,

who let slip
a startling fact after one game.

Sometimes, there's hungry nights
when I'm not able to eat

and I still gotta play
up to my capabilities.

There are hungry nights
that I go to bed and I'm starving.

Hunger Games should take place
annually in a dystopian future,

not every March sponsored
by Coca-Cola on CBS.

NCAA insists that student athletes
cannot be paid, they are amateurs.

Though they've slightly softened
their rules on food,

they still exercise a ridiculous
amount of control over players.

Before they're allowed to compete,

athletes have to sign this form,
saying that they are amateurs.

They give up any compensation
for playing and promise to abide

by all the rules
in this 440-page manual.

A 400 odd page manual of rules.

The only other thing that has that
many finicky little rules

would be a sex party
at Wes Anderson's house.

Guests are required to wear lingerie
of a prewar, Andalusia vintage.

Fellatio accompanied by music from
the Kinks and early Cat Stevens

and condoms shall be found inside
a diorama of the sinking of Lusitania.

Now everybody fuck.

The NCAA rule book
is not just for show,

as a New Mexico player
discovered a few years back.

A discount on a hotel ballroom
is the imperissable benefit

and NCAA violation that
caused Fenton to be suspended.

He was suspended for unwittingly
receiving a $250 discount

on a ballroom
for his 21st birthday party.

And by the way,
a discounted ballroom...

Are we sure he was turning 21
and not celebrating

his 40th wedding anniversary
with his lovely wife Marion,

that would make more sense.

Some rule enforcements go from
the petty to the heartless.

The late Rick Mejarus,
when he was at Utah,

had one of his players
who'd lost one of his parents.

He took him to lunch before putting
him on a plane to send him home

and the NCAA said
that was a violation,

you can't give an athlete something
you don't give another student.

Sure, I get that, if you show
one player basic human decency

you have to show everyone
basic human decency.

Nobody wants that.
And to be fair here,

NCAA claim that while student
athletes are not being paid,

they are compensated
with something valuable.

We provide them with
opportunities to get an education

at the finest universities on earth,
American universities and colleges.

Athletes are paid in an education.

The only currency more difficult
to spend than bitcoin.

A four-year education
is undeniably valuable.

Assuming that one, you don't get
hurt and lose your scholarship,

which can happen,
and two, you have time to study.

If you're a student playing
top-level basketball or football,

that can be difficult.

Listen to Richard Sherman
reminisce about his college days.

In the morning,
you have weights at this time.

After weights you go to class.
And after class,

you go maybe
to grab you a quick bite to eat.

Then you go to meetings.
After meetings you got practice

and after practice you got to try
to get all the work done.

I would love for a regular student
to have a student athlete's schedule

for just one quarter
and show me how you'll balance that.

Paying top college athletes with
education is like telling a nurse:

There's no salary for this job.
We'll give you free trumpet lessons.

But if you don't learn to play,
you're fired.

Does that sound fair ?
I think that sounds fair.

And the education athletes
do get is sometimes watered-down.

Last year, an investigation revealed
that the University of North Carolina

had held so-called paper classes
that boosted athletes' grades.

Football and basketball players,
they would be enrolled,

steered to and enrolled in a paper
class in African American studies.

We could have football player who
in the spring might have a GPA of 1.4,

but in the summertime
we put him in 3 paper classes

and we get, A, A, A minus,
and lo and behold,

he's academically eligible
to play football in the fall.

Let's not pretend it isn't something

about African American studies course
being an easy major:

take this class investigating social,
political, cultural complexities

inherent to the black American
experience, it'll be a breeze !

Phone the thing in.

And it gets worse.
Because many student athletes at UNC

also left
with an unusual language credit.

- What language did you study ?
- Swahili.

- Swahili ?
- Yes.

- Does that come in handy ?
- No, not at all.

- What language did you take ?
- I took Swahili.

- Do you speak Swahili, a bit ?
- As of right now, no.

Encouraging black student athletes
to take bullshit Swahili courses

is the institutional prejudice which
might well turn up

in one of their African-American
studies courses.

Student athletes don't get paid
and sometimes don't get educated.

But what they do get is the chance
to learn from coaches

who will take them under their wing
and provide them with life lessons.

Fuck you. And fuck me. And fuck
everybody. That is fucking bullshit.

That is inspirational.

Someone should put that
on a cat poster.

While this mistreatment is happening...
Iit's a good poster, lifts your spirits.

While this mistreatment is happening,
huge money is being made.

Sometimes, the NCAA makes money
off players years afterwards.

A few years ago, the NCAA
proudly licensed this video game,

a game whose selling point
was authenticity.

The crowd, the noise,
the cheerleaders.

The intensity of the game,
the passion of the game.

It's all about authenticity.

The level of authenticity
is extremely deep.

I thought the only people obsessed with
how authentic something was

are people from San Diego
talking about Mexican food.

I get it, Kendall, but there are
avocados everywhere now.

We've all got them now.

That game was so authentic, it created
an awkward moment for Ed O'Bannon,

a former UCLA star player who
works at a car dealership in Las Vegas.

I was with a friend
and he said that his son

had a video game with me in it.

You wanna go check it out ?
So, yeah, of course.

Left-handed, height, weight,
skin color, bald-headed,

it was me for sure.

I'm thinking to myself,
they got me on the video game.

While his kid was playing,
he almost whispers in my ear,

the crazy thing about this
is that you didn't get paid.

First of all, I don't know who that
kid was, but that's a dick move.

Ed ? Pretty crazy how
you got nothing for this, right Ed ?

Must be pretty humiliating,
right, Ed ?

About you not getting
any money for this, Ed ?

Pretty annoying, right Ed ?
Are you annoyed, Ed ?

Are you annoyed right now, .Ed ?
Is it annoying to you, Ed ?

They actually don't make that game.
Ed O'Bannon sued the NCAA

over their rules on compensating
athletes, and won.

NCAA is appealing that decision,
which would allow players to be paid.

Partly because, as they often claim,
schools could barely afford it.

14 schools out of the 1 100 last year
had positive cash flow

out of intercollegiate athletics.

It's anything but a money making
proposition for universities.

We have sports for the same reason
Mariah Carey has an acting career.

God knows it's not to make a profit.
It's for the love of the game.

That's the principle.

He's not wrong that many departments
barely break even.

That's misleading. For the schools
that generate most of the money,

those losses
are sometimes by design.

Profits are what's left
when you account for expenses.

They can come up
with an awful lot of expenses,

of salaries, they find a ton
of ways to spend a ton of money.

In keeping
with their nonprofit status,

schools spend money to make it look
like they're not making too much money.

It's like when your rich friend
buys Diesel jeans with holes in them.

C'mon Brayden, we all know you can
afford to have warm knees.

You're not fooling anyone, B.

When rich schools do this
to move money around,

not-so rich schools end up getting
into an arms race to compete.

Why the 10 largest football stadiums
in the country belong to colleges.

University of Michigan has claimed
that, on game days,

their stadium is the fourth-largest
city in the state of Michigan.

Also the one with the fewest rusted
out auto-plants run by raccoons.

They're doing their best.
Stadiums are just the beginning.

Alabama made
an MTV Cribs-style video

showing off their ludicrously
opulent football facilities.

One of the best features I think
of the locker room,

is the hydrotherapy area.

We have a hot tub and a cold tub,
but really they're pools.

I never thought I'd say this,

Alabama, stop showing off
your ostentatious wealth !

It is not just buildings
that schools spend money on.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen
was just given a raise,

pushing his salary
to $4 million a year.

$7 million a year
for the next 8 years,

Alabama coach
Nick Saban's new deal.

University of Kentucky
announced a $52 million,

7-year contract extension with
basketball coach John Calipari.

America has a long, proud
history of paying aging white men

unconscionable amounts
for screaming at people.

I'm saying there's precedent there.
This makes it even harder to swallow

when some coaches,
like Clemson's Dabo Swinney,

who makes over $3 million a year,
insists that his players not get paid.

As far as paying players,
professionalizing college athletics,

that's where you lose me.

I'll go do something else, there's
enough entitlement in this world.

Wait, if you find that infuriating,
you might like to know

that "Dabo Swinney" is an anagram
for "soybean wind."

It's fitting, because he seems
as pleasant as an edamame fart.

And the fact that his name's
an anagram for "soybean wind"

it's not relevant,
but I thought it was worth mentioning,

because it feels like something
he'd be annoyed by

and would not want people to know
on a wide basis.

Hashtag soybean wind.

And by the way,
the larger point is,

Swinney has trademarked his name
for use on shirts.

He's allowed to do that.
The NCAA manual explicitly states

coaches are free to pursue
endorsement or consultation contracts.

And players are aware
of this discrepancy.

Here's former University
of Michigan basketball star Jalen Rose.

The revenue stream for coaches
people underestimate.

You get paid from the school,
from camps, from apparel company,

have a TV deal,
you have your radio show.

That's 5 revenue streams.
So when I come into practice

and I miss a couple of shots
and I dribble it off my foot,

and coach says:
Jalen, what's going on with you ?

My mother's lights about to get
cut off, that's my problem.

Sometimes it must be tough to focus
on your lights-out shooting

when your mother's lights
are literally going out.

If you think, they'll all get rich
when they become professionals,

that's true
in a fractional number of cases.

Less than two percent of college
basketball and football players go pro.

If you're an athlete who dreams
of being a Viking or a Wizard,

you probably
have the same chance of becoming

an actual viking
or an actual wizard.

And all of this assumes
they manage to stay healthy.

If they get injured, a whole host
of other problems can emerge.

The first executive director
of the NCAA stated

he crafted the term student
athlete in the 1950s,

to avoid workers' comp
for injured athletes.

And 60 years later,
that term is still working.

Kyle Hardrick was so good that

Oklahoma offered him a scholarship
in ninth grade.

But after a knee injury,
he lost his scholarship

and with medical bills piling up,
he couldn't afford to stay in school.

If it was workman's comp,
my son would've been taken care of.

He would've been
able to finish his college.

He was promised an education
and he got one

in how little schools sometimes give
a shit about their student-athletes.

This whole system
seems fundamentally flawed.

Yet the NCAA constantly insists
there is no way athletes can be paid

even a nominal amount,

The notion of converting a student
to a paid employee

is antithetical to the principle
of intercollegiate athletics.

It changes the notion
of what college sports is all about.

I think you might be right.

If college sports is all about
exploiting people, then, yes,

paying athletes would change
what college sports are all about.

No one is saying that they need
to be paid millions,

or hundreds of thousands,
or the same amount,

or even that every school
needs to pay every athlete.

But to pay everyone zero
when the kid selling their jersey

gets ten dollars an hour
seems a little bit strange.

If it truly is all about the romance
of amateurism, that's fine.

Give up the sponsorships, the TV deals,
stop paying the coaches,

and have teams run by an
asthmatic anthropology professor.

But if you are going
to change nothing,

at least be honest about
the business you're engaged in.

Feel free to bring back
your video games,

but in the spirit of authenticity,
that seems to matter so much,

make them a little more accurate.

Rated "E" for "exploitative".

New from LWT Sports !
March Sadness 2015,

the most authentic college
basketball game of all time.

Any game can give you
the excitement of college athletics

but that's only
about 2% of your week.

You'll get to experience
the other 98%.

What are you, a fucking idiot ?!
I'm gonna fucking kill you !

You pass like a fucking pussy !

You'll enjoy the fun
of being screamed at

by a middle-aged millionaire while
living in fear of losing scholarship.

Be it from a career-ending injury,
accidentally accepting a free lunch

or directly profiting in any way
from the value of your work.

Making money's antithetical to
the principle of collegiate athletics.

But don't take it from us.
Take it from the unwilling star

of EA's NCAA Basketball '09,
Ed O'Bannon.

This game is as fucked up
as the real thing.

You'll get to create your own player
and enjoy an authentic experience

because our game puts just as much
emphasis on an education

as a real NCAA Division I
school does.

Are you ready for your Swahili exam ?
Congratulations, you speak Swahili.

Now, back to the gym.

It's the most authentic
college game of all time.

As other unpaid star of NCAA
Basketball, Jalen Rose, will attest.

That's pretty much what it's like.

And this year, if you play LWT's
NCAA March Sadness,

you can play in 2 new modes.

Coach mode: which consists
of screaming at 18-year-olds.

Asshole ! I'm gonna
kill all of you entitled assholes !

Or you can choose
school administrator mode,

figuring out how to somehow
remain a non-profit.

You want a stadium
across from your stadium ?

How about a rocket ship ?
But be careful,

because if you use a penny of that
money to play your players, game over.

No matter which mode you choose,

you're guaranteed all the joy
of top level college athletics.

March Sadness 2015. LWT Sports.
It's in the shame.

This game is some bullshit !

That's our show, thanks for watching.
See you next week. Good night !