After Republican Senator Rand Paul directed a comment with racial overtones at college basketball players, Jay Bilas is wondering why he hasn’t been called out more.
During the U.S. Senate hearing on the looming merger between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, Paul veered off-topic to address college athletes profiting off their name, image, and likeness.
“Many of us loved watching amateur athletes that weren’t paid. Now everybody that plays basketball in college is gonna be driving a Bentley or a Rolls [Royce],” Paul said. “I mean, we’re gonna be seeing rap stars instead of basketball stars. I mean, this is crazy!”
Paul’s stance on college athletes and NIL is in line with most Republicans, but comparing basketball players to rappers certainly sounded like a comment that was racially charged. Bilas, who is one of ESPN’s foremost voices on college basketball, joined The Dan Le Batard Show in Lake Tahoe this week and was asked about Paul’s tangent during the Senate hearing.
“To be kind, it was racial undertones. It was overtones. And it was a pretty clear dog whistle,” Bilas said of the Kentucky Senator. “So I didn’t care for it. I’m surprised he hasn’t been called out on it more to date, just like Tommy Tuberville was with the ridiculous things he said recently.”
Bilas was referring to Tuberville recently criticizing the government’s attempts to “get out the white extremists, the white nationalists,” from the military. When asked whether white nationalists should be allowed in the military, the Alabama Senator said, “Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.”
Tuberville was pressed on his controversial comment and ensuing attempts at doubling down until he finally agreed white nationalists are racist. Bilas, however, is unsure why Paul hasn’t been similarly pressed to address his racially charged comment.
“Who cares what the players drive?” Bilas continued. “Why do you care what the players drive? And all the people who are talking about, they don’t like money in college sports, they didn’t complain over the last 45, 50 years when revenues have gone through the roof and coach’s salaries have gone through the roof…it strikes me as crazy that so many free market libertarians, they’re saying, ‘Oh but this one segment, no free market for you. Everybody else, we want the free market, but we don’t want it for you.’
“It’s almost immoral, it’s so ridiculous that it gets to being immoral that we want to restrict college athletes only and say, ‘well, they get a scholarship.’ But look at all the non-athletes that get scholarships…and they can make whatever money they want.”
The mere concept of attempting to suppress college athletes from earning what they’re worth contradicts Paul’s branding as “Libertarian-ish.” Le Batard Show host Mike Ryan noted a majority of the college athletes that would be able to benefit off their name, image, and likeness are minorities. “It kind of feels like, ‘know your place,’ we want to keep the power dynamic as is,” Ryan said.