Mark Emmert is an old rich guy in charge of a business that employs many young people and compensates them at a fraction of their value, pocketing the profits. We’re currently going through a particularly ominous time in our culture where old rich people are doing this to everyone, out in the open. So Mark Emmert isn’t special in this regard. It’s just that he makes it really, really easy to make fun of him for being the out of touch goon that he is.
The NCAA oversees many college athletic endeavors, but one that hasn’t quite fallen under their purview yet is esports. The burgeoning sport might seem a bit strange to older generations, or even younger people who only play video games for fun, but there’s no denying that esports is going to be a huge part of the industry for years to come.
We’re already well on our way to esports eventually being in the Olympics and various universities have started offering esports scholarships. They’re even becoming part of the curriculum at some major schools. Basically, you’d have to completely detached from the world around you to work in the world of higher education and not see that esports are a big deal. You’d have to be the kind of person who wouldn’t know how the wind is blowing until it had already blown past you and you were forced to chase it.
Which brings us back to Mark Emmert.
Emmert was speaking in Orlando, Florida earlier this week at the NCAA’s annual convention when he got on the topic of “values-based bold leadership.” Once you stop rolling your eyes, read the rest of the quote below:
“It’s pretty simple,” Emmert said. “We have to lead with our values. That’s how we need to make decisions, whether it’s wagering, legal environments, esports, anything else that we do.”
From there he answered pertinent questions about esports but seemed unclear on the direction the NCAA might take on topics such as Title IX compliance. Then, Emmert hit us with the kill shot:
“We know a lot of the content is hugely misogynistic,” Emmert said. “We know that some of the content is really violent. We don’t particularly embrace games where the objective is to blow your opponent’s head off. We know there are serious concerns about health and wellness around those games.”
So let’s break down how dumb all these statements are.
First, Emmert voiced concern about whether not esports could be compliant under Title IX since it traditionally is very male-centric. If that’s a big problem for Mark, he should probably shut down college football because last time we checked that is a sport that usually consists of 100 percent male athletes.
Second, the NCAA was more than happy to swim in video game cash when he licensed out the likenesses of his unpaid college athletes to EA Sports for years. He and the NCAA fought for years to maintain that right until they finally lost the case…and just gave up rather than shell out fair returns to the players.
Third, yes, some video games are violent and involve blowing people’s heads off. But there are plenty of games that don’t. And many of those games are involved in esports already.
Fourth, let’s dig into that quote. “We don’t particularly embrace games where the objective is to blow your opponent’s head off.” It’s true that the object of college football is not to “blow your opponent’s head off.” But, also, it kinda is? Some of the vicious hits that are baked into the DNA of football come with a cost, one that Mark Emmert is fine with. College football players get injured routinely, often at great cost to their careers and health. Some have even died playing this sport. But somehow, Mark Emmert thinks a video game where you shoot a made-up character might be worse for his organization’s image than everything that happened surrounding Jordan McNair.
The NCAA pockets millions off of violent sports like football, lacrosse, and wrestling and doesn’t seem to have any second thoughts about actual injuries. But all of a sudden he’s got concerns about Fortnite characters getting a headshot.
Of course, Emmert is also an out-of-touch old guy who wouldn’t understand esports if you spent all weekend explaining the market and the interest to him.
To be fair, as Alex Kirschner at SB Nation pointed out, there are valid reasons why the NCAA and esports might not be a good fit. The sport has come up in the world of cash prize tournaments and professional contracts. The sport is also heavily intertwined with gaming developers who have called the shots in many cases so far. The NCAA would have to start from scratch in figuring out how to manage and police the sport and its athletes. They can barely get a handle on basketball and football. Running a sport they obviously don’t know anything about seems like folly.
So if Mark Emmert wants to say that the NCAA and esports aren’t a good fit, he has plenty of valid reasons to say so. But by invoking a holier than thou attitude against video game violence, he once again gives life to the notion that he and the organization in charge of the well-being of student-athletes are out of touch with the way the world works. That and he’s burying his head in the sand about the violence incurred by the sports he already makes money from.
Emmert said earlier this week that he wanted the NCAA to provide “values-based bold leadership.” That’s kinda hard when you don’t seem to have values, you’re not particularly bold, and your leadership is completely out of step with the needs of those you oversee.