It’s never easy to watch an earnest young man shatter his leg in a horrific basketball accident and potentially put his entire future in jeopardy. But what’s happening to Kevin Ware is much worse than we thought.
Though it seems the whole world knows about the Louisville Cardinals’ guard at this point, I’ll briefly reiterate: during a Sunday night Elite Eight NCAA Tournament game against the Duke Blue Devils, Ware leapt to block an opponent’s three-point shot attempt and landed awkwardly (to put it lightly) on his foot, sustaining an open fracture of his right tibia that forced the bone to immediately pop out of his leg.
If you think that sounds bad, try watching it:
Before being taken off the court on a stretcher, Ware “bravely” (according to Head Coach Rick Pitino) reassured his shocked, horrified, and devastated teammates that he’d be fine, and encouraged them to simply make sure they won the game. And win they did: an emphatic 85-63 victory subsequently ensured their spot in the Final Four.
Since then, the city of Louisville and the nation as a whole have rallied around this brave young man, finding great inspiration in his selfless fighting spirit and team-first mentality. He also gave a tearful interview about the incident on ESPN, which I guarantee will break your heart (box of tissues highly recommended upon first viewing):
But questions continue to hover: will Kevin Ware ever play basketball again? If so, at what level? How (if at all) will the NCAA and/or the University of Louisville compensate him for his troubles? Is he owed anything at all?
At a gut level, I’d assume most Americans think Kevin Ware is owed something. Where many students give deeply of their paychecks to Louisville, Ware gave his body. That his likeliest shot at a college education required him to risk potential physical harm seems an uneven exchange to begin with, but it seems even worse when considering the financial implications of his injury.
It was recently revealed that the NCAA and University of Louisville Athletic Department will be partnering to manufacture a $24.99 t-shirt emblazoned with Ware’s jersey number (5) and the words: “Rise to the Occasion” on the back. Profits from sales will go to Adidas and the University of Louisville’s general scholarship fund, but none to Kevin Ware or his family. The cited reasoning behind this is the NCAA’s rule-enforced preservation of “the sanctity of amateurism,” thereby ensuring student athletes aren’t profiting from their sport-related exploits.
This is depressing for a number of reasons: first, Louisville has yet to announce whether Kevin Ware’s scholarship will be waiting for him intact if he returns to school next fall unable to play. Secondly, if his injury rehabilitation costs are beneath the $90,000 deductible necessary for the NCAA’s catastrophic injury insurance to take effect, he could be solely responsible for his medical bills. Not to mention if he needs further rehab later in life (for which it’s more or less guaranteed he’ll be completely responsible).
National College Players Association President Ramogi Huma says: “These are things that are not guaranteed to players that are injured, and no matter how hard it might be for people to understand, that's the truth. And that should change."
It seems indefensible that a 20-year-old student athlete should suffer to this degree and receive no help from the NCAA. Perhaps his fans and alleged supporters should take the t-shirt’s advice and “rise to the occasion.”