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Earlier today, Representatives Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri) reintroduced their Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act, which they claim will ensure that college athletes have the opportunity to monetize their name, image, and likeness. However, this proposed bill seems to do more to protect NCAA interests than those of college athletes. Indeed, the bill potentially may harm the long-term interests of college athletes in at least four separate ways.

First, Representatives Gonzalez and Cleaver’s proposed bill includes language that implies a college athlete would not be considered an employee under federal law. This language is troubling because, at present, the employment status of revenue-generating college athletes remains unsettled, with at least one NLRB regional director having found that some revenue-generating college athletes are indeed employees. Achieving employee status is important to college athletes because it would increase the likelihood that down the road they would be able to unionize. By contrast, the rejection of employee status would reasonably forestall any future college athlete unionization efforts.

Second, Representatives Gonzalez and Cleaver’s bill includes language that nothing in the bill “shall provide a cause of action” under federal antitrust laws against the NCAA or its member schools. While this language is arguably ambiguity, the ambiguity, at a minimum, muddies the waters regarding future legal challenges to various NCAA restraints. Given how strongly the NCAA tries to hold onto even the slightest word of dicta to try to claim antitrust immunity, the last thing Congress needs to do to college athletes right now is pass a statute that gives the NCAA’s lawyers another somewhat colorable claim of immunity.

Third, Gonzalez and Cleaver’s proposed bill intends to prevent state legislatures from implementing their own laws to grant broader rights to athletes competing for colleges in their state. This means that rather than allowing the NCAA’s economic cartel to fall as individual states compete with one another to recruit elite college athletes by enhancing athlete economic rights, this bill would mark an end to any efforts to generate free market competition in the college athlete marketplace.

Finally, Gonzalez and Cleaver’s proposed bill intends to establish a Covered Athletic Organizations Commission with the power to certify athlete agents, handle dispute resolution, and make recommendations to Congress. While establishing such a commission, in itself, is not per se problematic, the potential makeup of such a commission causes reasons for concern. For instance, as currently drafted, the proposed commission would consist of “[a]t two individuals who are current or former college athletes who advocate for the intercollegiate interest of student-athletes,” and an undetermined number of members — theoretically up to eleven — who are college athletic directors, coaches or other individuals affiliated with the NCAA and its views. This proposed commission makeup should be alarming to college athlete rights advocates, as it leaves open the possibility that individuals affiliated with the NCAA could find themselves having significant control over new system that on the surface is claimed to protect college athlete interests.

For these four reasons, federal legislators should be highly skeptical of whether Anthony Gonzalez and Emanuel Cleaver’s proposed Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act sufficiently benefits the interests of college athletes to pass muster. Indeed, there are strong arguments that this bill does actually serve primarily to protect the interests of college athletes, but rather provides the NCAA and its member schools with a host of new, unnecessary protections and immunities.

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Marc Edelman (Marc@MarcEdelman.com) is a Professor of Law at Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business, Sports Ethics Director of the Robert Zicklin Center on Corporate Integrity, and the founder of Edelman Law. He is the author of “A Short Treatise on Amateurism and Antitrust Law” and “The NCAA, Fair Pay to Play, Antitrust Scrutiny and the Need for Institutional Reform.”

I first visited Old Trafford at the age of seven, when my father took me to see Manchester United play a third round FA Cup tie. On the way there he told me the story of Duncan Edwards and the tragedy of the Munich Air Disaster, of manager Matt Busby battling for his life to then take his Busby Babes to domestic and European glory.

Despite a bitterly cold January afternoon, the atmosphere in the floodlit ground was unforgettable, and I was kept warm by the red white and black scarf my grandmother had knitted at record speed. Though I spent my entire adolescence forlornly hoping for a return to those glory days, I was smitten. From Steve Coppell to Bryan Robson I never wondered who actually owned Manchester United, or considered football a business. It was simply my club.

As the #7 shirt made its way to Eric Cantona then David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, the team continued to battle in the depth of winter with rivals across England mixed with glamorous mid-week nights of European football. Wages spiralled, transfer fees continued to break records, and sponsors were everywhere. In bars from San Francisco to Singapore I could follow every game thanks to billions of dollars in broadcasting deals.

So is a venture like the European Super League a taste of things to come, and what does it mean for the future of football? To better understand the dynamics in play, I reached out to Chris Moos, Lecturer in Organisational Studies at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. He researches how leaders deal with complexity, whether running a football club, a museum or a Fortune 500 multinational. With Saïd colleagues Professor Michael Smets, Kevin McSweeney and Professor Tim Morris they shared their thoughts on football, fans and finance.

The launch and faltering of the Super League (SL) have been a pivotal moment in European, and world football. For the first time UEFA, the world’s biggest and most powerful regional football association, has been challenged by a competitor. For many fans, the Super League proposal of elite clubs mingling in a closed competition without the risk of relegation amounted to a stab in the heart of the ‘beautiful game’.

For elite club owners, the SL presented a welcome opportunity to regulate the industry through a spending framework that limits players’ bargaining power as their biggest cost driver. Effectively, the Super League would have cemented the financial status of a small number of elite clubs. At the same time, it would have provided an alternative to UEFA’s toothless financial fair play rules, which have also entrenched the monetary disparities between elite and smaller clubs, as transfer sums, salaries, fees and commissions have spiralled out of control.

While this may be seen as one monopolist squaring off against another, UEFA’s president Aleksander Ceferin has successfully framed this as an endgame between two bigger principles. Domestic fans, fairness, and meritocracy on one side, an unfortunate alliance of American and European greed, privilege, and nepotism on the other.

The SL has tried to woo football fans and the wider public by presenting their proposals as a way of saving cash-strapped clubs battered by the Covid crisis, reaching young remote supporters, supporting women’s football, and expanding solidarity payments to smaller clubs. Yet, given its position as the outsider and newcomer without a track record, this narrative has failed to score in the court of public opinion. 

At the same time, football grandees like Florentino Perez, the President of Real Madrid, and Juventus Chairman Andrea Agnelli have heavily underestimated UEFA’s capacity to garner support from important parts of the wider football community: high-profile politicians, from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron to former players and local football supporters.

The spectacular folding of the SL amounts to an unmitigated victory for UEFA’s Ceferin. His strategy of using the association’s position as a well-connected incumbent to mobilise stakeholders, skilfully mixing personal attacks and emotional appeals to tradition, has been highly effective in swaying public opinion.

Yet, the controversy about football, money and supporters is far from recent. What the SL and UEFA have been battling about so bitterly is the question that has been at the very heart of professional football for decades. Is football a sport, a ‘club’ community of fans, or a business? Or all three of them?

Ceferin’s approach in saving UEFA has been successful because he has focused on presenting compatible answers to the first two questions. He has presented football as a competitive sport with strong emotional significance for fans and the wider public. As opposed to that, the SL founding members, the Glazer, Henry and Agnelli clans, the respective owners of Manchester United, Liverpool FC and Juventus, have pitched their proposal primarily as a financial one. Given their track record, their appeal to the sport and fans has been cast as inauthentic lip service. This has brought the tension between the football business and the fan community to the fore.

In our research of leaders in the wider entertainment field, we see that leaders who are faced with three competing priorities are successful when they manage to make at least two – better still all three – of them work together. The failure of the SL is a testament to the need of modern football leaders to find solutions that smartly work with the tensions they experience, and address the multiple expectations they are exposed to without overemphasising any one of them – be it sport, fans, or money.

It also shows how leaders have to take into account how apparently less powerful groups may organise to support or oppose their actions. Perez, Agnelli and their American backers have clearly been blindsided by local football fans’ direct actions like blocking team buses, and displaying “created by the poor, stolen by the rich” banners. Ceferin has smartly managed to capitalise on that outrage as an unscripted expression of support of his position.

However, it is worth remembering that the fans and players who are now supporting UEFA have often been relentless in their opposition to the murky, and even corrupt world of football associations. Considering that financial fair play rules are rarely enforced for the wealthiest clubs, from Manchester City to Paris Saint Germain, Ceferin’s outrage at SL’s “greed” rings hollow. Rather, fans’ chants accusing them of turning their sport into an unfair money-making machine are a sound track that UEFA leaders are all too familiar with.

After all, Ceferin has himself largely failed to provide the solutions that sustainably bring together sport, fan communities, and business in European football. The difference between the leadership of the SL and UEFA is thus rather one of degree. Where monopolists wield power, fans get “spit in the face”, as Ceferin himself put it.

Fundamentally, both SL and UEFA leaders need to ask themselves how they will manage to find the complementary solutions that combine all three aspects of professional football at the same time: connect with the wider football community, create financially sustainable clubs, and show exciting football.

For now, Cefering will be able to capitalise on his victory by deflecting concerns about UEFA’s own shortcomings. Yet, in the long run, the failure of SL will not dissolve the need for UEFA and other sports associations to make football, fans, and money work together, rather than in opposition.

If anything, the SL has managed to unite all kinds of community groups behind a common banner. Football supporters will not forget their newly rediscovered power to act. Football leaders should be mindful that using fans as a pawn in the business of football may be a double-edged sword.

During the abolitionist movement of the 19th century, journalists were among those leading the charge to eradicate slavery. Two centuries later, they’re continuing to inspire change, with leaders at the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research and the Boston Globe teaming up to apply the same pressure to ongoing racial injustice. 

The result: The Emancipator, a platform cofounded by author, historian and Boston University Center for Antiracist Research director Ibram X. Kendi and Boston Globe editorial page editor Bina Venkataraman that will spotlight antiracism practices through the multimedia work of journalists, historians and scholars. Content will include written stories, research, and interactive events like roundtables. 

The idea for the initiative came to the cofounders in June, when, after discovering their shared interest in Boston-based 19th-century anti-slavery publications, they started wondering, “could we create a publication, a megaphone for leading thinkers, ideas and debates about bringing about a racially just society, in the same way that those abolitionists created a megaphone for thinkers who wanted to bring about the end of slavery?” says Venkataraman.

“In many ways, I have married scholarship and journalism in my own work, and what it’s allowed for is the ability to have the research techniques and methods and methodology combined with writing in a way that’s accessible for everyday people,” Kendi adds. “Putting both together under the same roof with [the Emancipator], I think it’s going to be quite effective. Quite impactful.”

Though the platform doesn’t officially launch until later this year, the cofounders are already establishing a team (they’re currently hiring for two Boston-based co-editor-in-chiefs) and finalizing details. They’ve decided, for example, that all content will be free to the public. “We really believe that in order to move our society forward in this really ambitious way, we should be reaching as many people as possible,” says Venkataraman. 

The team has also recruited an advisory board of journalists and scholars including the New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, Harvard historian and author Annette Gordon-Reed, journalist and immigration rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas and The 19th CEO and editor-in-chief Emily Ramshaw. Members of the founding team also include Dr. Monica Wang, associate director of narrative for the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, and Kimberly Atkins, Boston Globe columnist and MSNBC contributor.

Joining the effort is a full-circle moment for Atkins, whose first journalism job was at the Boston Globe. Atkins will serve as the Emancipator’s lead columnist and will author its biweekly newsletter, Unbound.

“This will be something more than simply a news organization…it’s something bigger,” says Atkins. “I’ve been asked a lot over the last year, ‘What can I do? How can I help? How can I understand?’ And there’s no easy answer to that…a lot of that understanding needs to be grounded in research, it needs to be grounded in study and analysis. I can direct people [to the Emancipator] and say, ‘If you want to understand more, this is a place to start.’”

Kendi hopes to grow the Emancipator into “the premiere vehicle for sort of data-driven, research-based, evidence-based journalism and scholarship and opinion on the most important racial issues of our time.” 

“If we can get to a time in which we could say that we’ve abolished racism, people will look back on the Emancipator and see that this multimedia platform was critical in that work, just like when we reflect on the movement against slavery in the 19th century,” he says.

Farah Alibay is living her dream to unlock the mysteries of Mars. But the 28-year-old Canadian engineer is also helping to chart a new path in aviation history — and doing it on another world.

Alibay is part of a team of engineers that designed and tested a space helicopter — nicknamed “Ingenuity” — that is set to take off over the red planet in the next few days.

It is a major “first” in space exploration — namely, the first time an autonomous aircraft has ever taken flight on another planet.

Read more:
NASA rover Perseverance takes first spin on surface of Mars

“If we can demonstrate that we can fly on Mars, that opens all sorts of opportunities for future missions,” Alibay told Global News’ The New Reality.

“Right now, we’ve been limited to driving on Mars, which is still super cool, but it’s fairly slow,” she said.

Ingenuity was affixed to the Perseverance rover that landed on the red planet on Feb. 18. Earlier this month, the chopper “emerged” from the belly of the rover, and is now operating on its own.

“I mean, we’re flying on another planet. Come on!” Alibay said.

“It’s kind of crazy because we’ve only been flying on Earth for about 100 years. And now we’re saying we’re going to go to another planet where gravity is different.”

Detached from the rover, the helicopter, which weighs less than two kilograms, has had to survive temperatures that dip to -90 Celsius, drawing upon enough of its own stored energy to remain functional. Mars receives only about half of the solar energy that reaches Earth during the daytime. Building a machine that can stay warm and power itself up enough to fly under those conditions — a mere 272 million kilometres from Earth — is not easy. That, and the fact that Mars’ atmosphere is just one per cent as dense as the Earth’s, makes it extremely challenging to build a flyable helicopter.

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Overcoming hurdles

If landing a rover, and flying a helicopter, on Mars came with plenty of twists and turns, so too did Alibay’s path to working on the mission.

Her job at NASA began with an internship — and an unlikely one at that. She submitted many applications before she landed the job. “I probably had like 50 of them rejected. And one day, someone … at a dinner, at a conference, took interest in my research and offered me an internship.”

The Montreal native moved to England at the age of 13, with what she describes as wobbly English. She says she “went to public school; I didn’t have access to privileged education,” and yet she was accepted to prestigious universities, first at the University of Cambridge, and then at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she completed her PhD. Her parents were role models, but when it came to the field of space exploration, there were not many people she could look up to and identify with.

“I didn’t have someone who looked like me in this position,” she says. “I grew up in the ’90s so there was a lot of interest in space, but a lot of people in these positions were white men, and it took a while for me to even allow myself to dream that I could be part of these people.”

But she persevered, and, in her role as a systems engineer at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, emphasizes that “it’s really important, now that I’m here, to show girls, to show minorities, that, hey, it doesn’t matter what you look like,” she says. “There’s a place for you here.”

Read more:
Take a look around Mars with Perseverance rover’s HD photo panorama

Bridging the arts & sciences

That story resonates deeply with Chimira Andres, a planetary geologist from Barrie, Ont., who, like Farah Alibay, grew up feeling dismayed at the lack of representation in the field by women, and especially women of colour. That’s finally changing now, Andres said.

“It’s just great to see that diversity in mission control that wasn’t evident before,” she said. “There are a lot of inspirational people out there, but if you can’t really see them, you can’t see yourself in that position as well.”

Her path to space was also rather unusual. She began her career as a dancer — and has since come to discover the many parallels between dance and the world of space exploration.

“I wanted to pursue science and space, and dance, at the same time, and just didn’t know how,” she said. Dance, she says, has taught her “everything from discipline to resilience” — skills that are critical for success in space.

After nearly two years at the Canadian Space Agency, Andres has spread her wings to Europe.

Last September, she landed a job in the Netherlands at the European Space Agency, where she is a graduate trainee in the agency’s science and technology education program.

“I really want to spread the love for STEM, the love for space,” she says. “Space is contagious, I think. So once you’ve talked about space to someone … you’ve got them hooked.”

Read more:
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Homegrown talent

Though Alibay and Andres are both working abroad, there is no shortage of brainpower in Canada when it comes to aerospace engineering and space exploration. Where Canada excels is in education, and post-secondary programs here attract the best and brightest from all over the world.

That includes aerospace graduate Eitan Bulka, who came to Montreal from Boston a decade ago, and recently defended his PhD at McGill.

“There are a lot of opportunities here in Montreal, so I’m actually only looking to stay in Montreal,” he told Global News.

His work looks at increasing the autonomous capacities of unmanned aerial vehicles. These include everything from drones that deliver goods purchased online to helicopters and other aircraft that can fly autonomously on other planets — including Mars.

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“It’s challenging enough to do this on Earth, and then there are extra challenges on Mars,” he says. “But, a lot of the tools that we develop on Earth are also applicable on Mars.”

He says that the idea that Canadians “go abroad” to pursue dreams in space — or that there is somehow a brain drain —no longer really holds.

“In the past, you kind of had to move to California. But now a lot of these (aerospace) companies are … in Canada and in Montreal, and they’re more open to having remote employees.”

And yet, the aerospace field in Canada is still “somewhat scattered,” says Inna Sharf, the director of McGill’s aerospace mechatronics lab. There are dozens of aerospace companies in Canada, from startups to large employers, and several university research groups working on everything from space engineering to self-driving cars, but “we don’t have NASA. … We don’t have anything uniting all this work, pulling it together.”

Read more:
How cigarettes, coffee and Canadian engineers helped put men on the moon (July 22, 2019)

Challenging terrain

There are definitely no shortcuts in getting to Mars, and the Perseverance mission is proof of that. NASA has landed the rover — and the Ingenuity helicopter with it — in one of the most inhospitable parts of the planet.

The area is known as Jezero Crater, and NASA chose the site because there is evidence of an ancient river delta that may have been able to support life more than 3.5 billion years ago. The crater has been shown to contain clay deposits, which can only form when there is water. Similar clay formations are found in the Mississippi River delta.

And making those connections with Earth is where Andres, the planetary geologist from Barrie, excels. She began her space career by learning about our planet. “I majored in Earth and environmental sciences,” she said, “because I heard that to be a good planetary scientist, you had to be an expert on Earth first.”

Of course, Mars is a “whole other world.” Yet, the parallels to science on Earth, whether it’s about engineering an autonomous aircraft or mapping ancient glaciers and streams, are remarkable.

“Space,” Andres says, “is not just rocket science. It’s not just biology. It’s all of them. It’s physics, math, combined with Earth sciences, and everything that you need, to help scientists bring a mission to Mars.”

See this and other original stories about our world on The New Reality airing Saturday nights on Global TV, and online at globalnews.ca.

A Western University sociology PhD student noticed a lack of national data and information-sharing when it comes to missing persons cases and decided to address it herself.

Launched in January, Lorna Ferguson says the reaction to the Missing Persons Research Hub has been overwhelmingly positive.

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“I’m hoping that it will help people. That’s really the end goal, you know, for getting this going and for getting involved in this field,” she told Global News.

The hub works as a centralization location “for all things” related to the field of missing persons in Canada, Ferguson says, from education to communication to research and more.

“There’s a lot of great researchers, community activists, other scholars, law enforcement personnel — basically a bunch of groups doing great research and great work in this area — but we’re not really talking to each other. So I started the hub to get us all in this one location to start the conversation, to try and move the situation forward, to start preventing and reducing missing persons in Canada.”

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The open-access hub includes a peer-reviewed research database as well as reports, policy documents, a discussion forum, a blog and a podcast.

Her PhD supervisor, Western sociology professor Laura Huey, says Ferguson is incredibly passionate about the project.

“She threw herself into this topic with a ferocity I’ve never seen. This is a second-year PhD student with no resources. This is something she started all on her own.”


Western University PhD student Lorna Ferguson created the Missing Persons Research Hub.


via news.westernu.ca

Ferguson herself was the subject of missing persons reports when she was a self-described child and teenager and was once escorted home by police.

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“It wasn’t dramatic. In fact, missing persons is often more mundane than we are led to believe from media reports. My parents told me to do things I didn’t want to do, so I took off,” she said in a release from Western University.

Missing persons cases can also involve seniors with dementia who wander and are found hours later or teens who leave group homes and return soon afterwards.

Read more:
Quebec police watchdog investigates after officers didn’t respond to report of person in river

There are, of course, more tragic cases, as told to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“The inquiry found that untold thousands of Indigenous women – each person encompassing a story and a tragedy – have been killed or have disappeared across the years and generations of colonialism,” Western University adds.

The RCMP’s National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains reports between 70,000 and 80,000 missing persons cases annually, with most found within a week.

Read more:
Demands for justice renewed as Canada marks MMIWG day of awareness (Oct. 2020)

Ferguson is hoping the hub can lead to more evidence-based policy decisions or practices and protocols.

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“That’s why I love doing research, just because I feel like I can truly have an impact, especially in the field of missing persons where it’s such an understudied and underfunded area in Canada. I mean, there’s been a lot of reviews and inquiries of late for the field of missing persons, but it’s not really gone anywhere,” she told Global News.

The hub is currently in the running for the CIBC’s Remarkable Students Competition, with voting open until the end of June.


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