HBO has announced the network will debut the HBO Sports documentary Student Athlete October 2 at 10 pm ET. The film, directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (Saving Face and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness) and Trish Dalton (Bordering on Treason), comes from LeBron James and Maverick Carter's SpringHill Entertainment and Steve Stoute's United Masters.
The documentary focuses on the plight of college athletes, who go unpaid despite becoming cash cows for the NCAA. In July 2017, news reports confirmed the Big Ten conference had signed an agreement with three television partners for a six-year, $2.64 billion rights deal to carry football and men's basketball conference competition primarily, and other conferences have also made similar arrangements and have partnered with media companies to create standalone conference network channels, all of which are making money off the backs of the players. As The Huffington Post wrote, "Big-time college sports look more like their professional counterparts than they ever have with one major exception: The NCAA has restrictive rules in place that prevent schools from compensating athletes beyond the full cost of attending."
"Unpaid college athletes generate billions of dollars for their institutions every year. Student Athlete unveils the exploitative world of high-revenue college sports through the stories of four young men at different stages of their athletic careers, as well as a coach-turned-advocate and a whistle-blowing shoe rep who exposes the money trail," states the press release. "...From high-school recruiting to post-graduation, the usefulness of athletes is tied to their ability to produce revenue. Once they can no longer do that, their participation in sport ends - often abruptly - with virtually nothing to show for their contributions. An audited financial disclosure from the NCAA in March 2018 revealed the association had close to $1.1 billion in revenue during 2017, a total that was unimaginable in 1964 when the NCAA coined the term 'student-athlete.'"
The documentary will follow former NCAA and NFL coach John Shoop; New Jersey high school basketball star and University of Kentucky player Nick Richards; University of Illinois and Bradley University player Mike Shaw; Shamar Graves, a former wide receiver at Rutgers University; and Silas Nacita, a walk-on who played for Baylor University.
"We embedded in the world of men's college basketball and football, capturing athletes' hopes and dreams being shattered by the harsh reality of what it means to be a 'student athlete' in a billion-dollar industry," said Obaid-Chinoy and Dalton.
"This is an incredibly important story about the institutional denial of basic human rights for these student athletes," said Carter. "When Steve Stoute brought us this idea, it was a perfect fit for the kind of stories we want to tell at SpringHill. We're excited to work with one of the best human rights storytellers in Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy to help people see and feel how this issue impacts the lives of those living it."
"The NCAA blinded by revenue goals is turning student athletes into full-time employees," said Stoute. "This documentary is incredibly important as it debunks the myth that student athletes are being fairly compensated by receiving scholarships and a valuable education. In fact, the demands put on these students by this oppressive system makes it impossible for them to get the education they deserve. The time is now to end this false narrative and reveal the truth of this exploitation."