Do NBA (and NFL) rules regarding high school players have an inherent racial bias?

Getty Images

As the shocking! notion that some college basketball players have secretly been paid to play the game continues to percolate throughout the national consciousness, an NBA coach raises an important point about basketballs’ one-and-done rule. That same reasoning potentially applies to the NFL’s three-and-done rule.

Via, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy suggests that the rule artificially barring high school basketball players from the NBA for one year contains an inherent racial bias.

I think a lot of it was racist, quite honestly,” Van Gundy said regarding the NBA’s one-and-done rule. “And the reason I’m going to say that is, I’ve never heard anybody go up in arms about, ‘Oh my God, they’re letting these kids go out and play minor-league baseball’ or, ‘They’re letting these kids come out and play minor-league hockey.’ They’re not making big money, and they’re white kids primarily, and nobody has a problem. But all of a sudden, you’ve got a black kid who wants to come out of high school and make millions — that’s a bad decision? But bypassing college to go play for $800 a month in minor-league baseball – that’s a fine decision? What the hell is going on?”

The NFL has the same kind of rule, preventing players from entering the draft for at least three years after the graduation of their high-school classes. While the NFL’s rule has a lot more to do with protecting the free farm system known as college football, it’s hard not to notice that Major League Baseball and the NHL have no qualms about letting kids go straight to the professional level.

Of course, the absence of a professional football league that welcomes players straight out of high school makes it easier for the NFL to give players a hard nudge toward college football. If an alternative pro league were to emerge that competes not with the NFL for players but with the NCAA, the NFL may have to revisit its stance.

Regardless of whether the NFL’s three-year restriction has, in comparison to baseball and hockey, any type of racial component, it’s (crusade alert) an unfair rule that prevents NFL teams and would-be NFL players from exercising maximum freedom when it comes to filling up rosters.

Yes, if the NFL were to embrace players less than three years removed from high school, many would learn the hard way that they misjudged their marketability. That possibility shouldn’t rob them of their ability to take that chance. Our inalienable rights include the right to make bad decisions. If an NFL team wants to make what could be a bad decision when drafting a high-school player, or if a high-school player wants to make a bad decision to bypass college football entirely for a pro career that never gets off the ground, there should be no arbitrary restriction to taking those risks.

63 responses to “Do NBA (and NFL) rules regarding high school players have an inherent racial bias?

  1. Both the NHL and MLB have a farm system approach to player development. All NHL teams have minor league teams and all MLB teams have A, AA and AAA teams to help develop the players. NFL has nothing of the the sort nor does the NBA.

  2. Our inalienable rights include the right to make bad decisions. – You are right, however, there is nothing that says that a private enterprise or enterprises have to be part of your bad decisions.

    There are alot of football players that come out of college and aren’t ready for the NFL, so how could the majority be ready without that? You can’t pick and choose based on the player, it needs to be a blanket rule without prejudice. Some people may not like it but pro football has more inherent danger than the other sports, physically that is.

  3. But with more and more Grade and middle schools stooping football because of head injury concerns, these kids only have 4 years of high school experience so some college experience should be necessary.

    If it is a money concern, pay them for College Football (if they don’t have full scholarships)

  4. No. There’s no need whatsoever to bring race in to this.

    1) College BB and College FB draw huge audiences and huge revenues to schools. BB and hockey don’t, not to anywhere near the same extent. There is, therefore, a vested interest for many with having talented players in the former sports, and far less for having them in the latter.

    2) BB and hockey have minor league systems, players enter to low wages, and the costs of failure are far more disproportionately borne by the individuals than the teams. The costs of failure of physically and emotionally not-yet-mature players entering the organization in the low minors is miniscule. High school players making the jump to the NFL and NBA via the draft consume significant team resources in money and roster slots than just aren’t comparable to minor league hockey and BB. Teams – and their fans – therefore, have a vested interest in not committing big money and roster slots to players who are not physically ready to compete at the highest levels.

    That doesn’t mean that there might not be some disparate impact, but there’s no reason to go looking for racial motivations where the non-racial motivations are more than sufficient to account for the behavior.

  5. 99% of high school kids are not physically ready to play against grown men in the NFL. While the kid had class all day, the grown up is with a strength and conditioning coach getting bigger and stronger. It’s not rocket science. The NBA had already started to talk about this very subject. NBA commish Adam Silver hates the NCAA and their rules. He had floated the idea of creating a system like European soccer: Academies for 16-18 (eliminating AAU), then going to the G-League (aka the D-League), and if the kid is good enough, jump straight to the NBA. They start getting paid at the G-League level. Not millions, but anything is better than going to college for one year and not getting paid, while the college makes millions off your name and refuses to cut you in on the profits.

  6. I find it amazing that we’re now upset because 2 organizations want kids to go to college. Wow, we turn everything into race, if they let them come straight in the story would be “the NFL doesn’t care about the guys after their done playing football, if they did they’d make these guys go to college”. It is impossible to do anything good anymore, someone has to turn everything into have some form of “other” meaning. At the most I could see the NBA since they don’t require at least 3 years, no ones getting a degree in 1 year so , maturity? physical growth? don’t know. Football requires 3 years, physically even then it takes them a year or two to bulk up and finish growing, it also gets them to get a degree or close to it and there are many programs that encourages them to finish school.

  7. While I don’t disagree with Van Gundy, the NBA switched the rules out of pure selfish greed. Since David Stern wasn’t making money from March Madness he wanted his own version of college basketball the D-League, and the only way to fill those spots was to let children into the NBA draft. As a result the NBA draft has become as meaningful as the NHL or MLB draft and NFL draft is the only draft people care about.

    This has been a complete failure on all fronts and the NBA has suffered because they barely have any stars. Up through the 90’s NBA rookies would transform franchises and the league because they were in the national spotlight 2,3,4 years in a row winning championships. People KNEW these guys and were dying to find out which teams would get them. In 2018 the most common response to the #1 overall pick in the NBA draft: Who??!!!

  8. Just ask your self if the same rules apply when concerning minor league baseball, minor league hockey for 900 bucks a month, or even tennis. Sports that have a completely different demographic. But in the sports that are predominantly populated by African Americans, these rules apply. Just look at the facts

  9. This is probably the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Right up there with Flat Earth Theory. I find it racist for him to assume the NHL is a white mans sport based on eligibility rules. Maybe he should talk to Devante Smith Pelley or Kyle Okposo and ask them how they were so lucky to receive the white privelage of being able to forego college and play in the NHL. What is going to be utterly hilarious is all of the “racism is real” crowd will be all over this guys jock and agree with him because it supports their cause, but god forbid any other white individual try to speak about the other race. I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

  10. NBA has the Developmental League so they do have a ‘farm system’ type of program even though it’s more like NFL Europe was for the NFL.

  11. Van Gundy is speaking from a place of IGNORANCE, nothing more. EVERY SPORT IS DIFFERENT, and it’s as simple as that. Baseball requires years of minor league (or college) toil for almost everyone to even be MLB-worthy, so the minor leagues creates an avenue for post-high-schoolers who still have 2-7 years to go before the majors. Nearly every football players NEEDS years of physical development before they could handle NFL hits, so it makes sense for them to get an education in the process. For the NBA, meanwhile, players can indeed be NBA ready in most ways even right out of high school, but the NBA saw that SPECIAL TALENTS were NOT DEVELOPING WELL at the NBA level. Teams couldn’t help but take risks with post-high-schoolers, and of course high school graduates would have a tough time resisting an NBA contract, but it was hurting both the teams and the players. These are realities that have developed ORGANICALLY due to the NATURE of each sport, not due to racism. As always, the biggest obstruction to race progress is “crying wolf” and seeing racism where it doesn’t exist.

  12. Let 18 year old 190lb linebackers play in the NFL. Why not?

    Just have them sign a wavier that keeps them from suing the league when they develop CTE in five years.

  13. The NFLPA, of which 70% are part of a racial minority group, agreed to the rule in the CBA.
    The NBAPA, of which 75% are part of a racial minority group, agreed to the rule in the CBA.

    The players could easily reject the age requirement from the CBA, but they don’t.

  14. Sigh…. Much ado about nothing.

    1. NBA and NFL players Associations have collectively bargained to allow the draft, and to allow limits on eligibility for the draft. Why? Because the union represents current players not future. They need to protect current players – so there is no incentive for them to allow more people to be eligible for the draft.

    2. Hockey Juniors (which is where pre-draft eligible players can play) is not under the auspices of the NHL. Separately run. Baseball minor leagues – many of the teams have affiliations, but are owned by people who do not own major league teams. nothing is stopping someone from creating a Basketball or Football program targeted at developing players for the “major leagues” in each sport. There is no requirement that the NBA or NFL create these leagues.

  15. The NBA does have a farm system, there’s the G-League and you also have the option to play overseas before pursuing the NBA. In this case, a racial bias could be considered a reason for the one-and-done rule. Whereas the NFL, there’s not a single player whose physically mature enough to make the leap from high school to the pros. Three years is the appropriate amount of time it takes to get on par.

  16. We all have the inalienable right to do as we please and make any decisions that we feel like. The down side of that right is we also have the right to suffer the consequences of those decisions and actions.
    I agree with the NFL on this subject. As for that coach’s statement about the age rules being racist, I call BS. Sports are the least racist of any occupation in existence.

  17. If college baseball and college hockey were big revenue generators, like college football and college basketball, there would probably be similar rules forcing the best, young talent to spend some time in college. Since there isn’t, those kids are free to go straight to the lower level pro leagues. I think there is an unintended racial impact, given that the majority of the talent in football and basketball is black, I don’t think the reason for the rules has a racial origin. While the rules may belong to the professional leagues, and not the NCAA, I don’t believe for a minute that there isn’t some sort of “wink-wink,” mutually beneficial agreement between them.

  18. Why is every rule good or stupid racist? So sick of everything being considered racist..Maybe conversation of stupid opinions like to his one keep racism alive.

    Bottom line NO kid from high school or even a year out is ready for the NFL..Black, White or Green.

    No minor league for NFL like Baseball, Hockey..Now Basketball does. It’s call Europe. ANY kid can skip college, get paid good money in Europe. Then cone to NBA.

  19. The NHL has set their own age limit at 18. Very talented 16- and 17-year-old kids have also prevented from earning “millions” in the pro league.

    Heck, I saw Sidney Crosby play a couple of times in junior hockey for the Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL). His rookie year (at 16) he was already better than a third of the guys in the NHL.

  20. “This is the XFL!”

    I would not be surprised to see Vince push into the realm of not having rules like this to bring in talent away from the college ranks.

  21. What a load of hogwash. Each league is it’s own entity and can do biz how they please. It’s not about race it’s about money.

    And the NFL hasn’t always been predominately African American…how long has the three year rule been in place?

  22. More so the NBA than the NFL. Most people generally agree that the level of violent collisions and overall physical toll of football is sufficient that there is no reason to make an exception for a few outliers who could be physically ready to play in the NFL at 18 or 19 versus the lot who are wholly unprepared.

    The NBA issue is a lot more political and sponsor-centric than race-related, though one must wonder why the same isn’t the case in the NHL, golf and tennis. Why the mega concern over optics (players going broke by 25 and washed out of the league), mediocre players flooding the talent pool and the decline in overall quality of play, when sports where players are able to enter at age 18 (or sooner) have the same issues. That’s where the belief arises.

  23. Common sense reform is required.

    College athletes needs limits on practice time and contact during practice. So colleges like bama can’t wear these young kids bodies out.

    There also needs to be some standards applied to the curriculum taken by college athletes. So no one can take cupcake classes like basket weaving for years. They need to at least pick up some life skills and knowledge.

    Anyone can enter a draft whenever they want. Anyone who accepts a college scholarship can’t go pro for two years. If you want to skip college but can’t get drafted then go play in the CFL or Euro until a team wants to draft you.

    Limit the cash universities/ADs/coaches can make off of these kids. Pool that extra money and use it for other sports, smaller schools and research.

  24. akira554 says:
    February 26, 2018 at 10:51 am
    The NFLPA, of which 70% are part of a racial minority group, agreed to the rule in the CBA.
    The NBAPA, of which 75% are part of a racial minority group, agreed to the rule in the CBA.

    The players could easily reject the age requirement from the CBA, but they don’t.

    You mean a league with existing veterans players are going to do whatever it takes to best protect their jobs against future competition? Noooo, that can’t be!

    Those respective unions’ first priority is current players, not those who *may* enter the league later. The league and the owners proposed the restrictions in both leagues and both leagues’ unions virtually and unanimously agreed to the terms for the reasons stated above. Maurice Clarett did not have union support when he challenged the rule. He had to seek outside counsel.

    If any of this is to change, it will come from an independent body which seeks to make legal precedent regarding the right to work and any collusive efforts to bar those who seek employment without discrimination (in this case, age) in a desired profession where they are erstwhile equipped and qualified to do so akin to existing employees.

    Stick to the shallow end of the pool.

  25. These debates are stupid. It seems to me that a large portion of the crowd that quickly cries racism are themselves racist on some level. The first thing they do when evaluating a situation is determine the races of individuals or groups involved. If they see that their minority of choice seems to be on the short end of the deal or that “white people” seem to be making out better they immediately stop looking at the rest of the factors and run for their keyboards or cameras to spout their ignorance. Normal, well-adjusted people simply do not look for racial angles in every situation. It’s just silly to do so.

  26. The best athlete in my high school went on the play Lacrosse on a D1 scholarship to a major east coast school and competed for national titles. Lacrosse was his favorite sport and the one he took most seriously. He played football as a hobby spot he was absolutely overpowering on the football field and always the best guy out there. Had football been his number 1 sport that he concentrated on he certainly had the physical tools to play at the D1 level.

    He was 6’4, maybe 210 lbs, and in about the peak physical shape an 18 year old kid can be as a senior..

    He would literally have gotten killed on an NFL field.

    You are still developing physically in your 20’s and the peak physicality of human is generally accepted to be 27. To play with the biggest, fastest, strongest freaks of nature humans in the USA a 18 year kid needs at LEAST a few years of access to the conditioning programs and facilities offered at a university. They just frankly are not physically developed enough to play NFL level football out of high school.

    Maybe one in a million kids might be ready, but rules are made for the majority, not the extreme minority.

  27. Suppose the NHL and MLB had no minor league systems to help develop players. Then the situation would be the same as the NBA and NFL (the G League is not a legitimate minor league of the type we see in MLB and NHL). It is virtually unheard of for a player to go directly from high school to the highest level in baseball or hockey. If the choice was to draft a kid out of high school and either put him on the major league roster or cut him, those leagues would have age limit rules too. Rostering a bunch of guys who can’t play now but have a lot of potential is no way to increase the quality of play in your sport.

  28. Woah, hold on. NFL is different. 18 to 21 is a HUGE body frame development stage. In those 3 years I went from the 227lbs. I am today. Everyone is different but as a rule of thumb in a sport where body mass matters, it can’t be overlooked.

  29. If the NFL was smart, they’d get out in front of this thing. Eliminating college football and then expanding your roster to control younger players for longer on rookie deals wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for them. Think about actual 75 man rosters with RBs under your team’s control for 7 or 8 years instead of 4 or 5 on the cheap, and that goes for every position including QB who they could then groom themselves instead of guessing so much on them when college coaches aren’t teaching them NFL concepts anymore.

  30. I think most of the people who dismiss racism are inherently racist. People actually take more offense at something being called racist than actual racism.


  31. Each league sets its own rules. Our inalienable rights include the owners’ right to determine what criteria will be employed when hiring employees.
    Huh? Really? Has history not shown what happens when owners’ rules go unchecked? They make racist and unjust decisions. That’s why labor laws were passed to correct their stupid decisions. Left unchecked, they are idiots.

  32. No way. If anything, it’s the opposite of racist. So many of the young black kids who grow in in really low income environments, have far fewer opportunities than those of us who grew up in middle class families, or better. Sports is pretty much their only way out. Most of them that end up going to college to play sports don’t ever receive a professional contract. But they do get an opportunity to get a college education, and the ability to take care of themselves, even without playing pro sports. The kids would be much better off staying in school, have the schools provide extra tutoring, work with them to make sure the get their degree (even if they’re not helping on the field or court) and then get the alumni involved in hiring these kids once they graduate. For the small minority of the kids who do make it to the pros, the ones with the college degrees end up having a much better chance at actually holding onto their fortunes. They’re also better role models for their kids, and better able to take care of their mother and other family members who rely on them. So this coach is selfishly looking out for himself. I don’t think he gives a hoot about the kids. Either that or he just doesn’t have a clue.

  33. The NBA’s one and done rule is so stupid. If a kid right out of high school has the talent to go right to the pros, why not let him?

    And then people are shocked when they get paid money under the table in college…it’s because they should already be making that money in the pros!

  34. Some people need to relax a bit. This isn’t an “everything is racist now!” situation – one guy gave an opinion, that’s all.

    Racism does exist in many ways and many forms. Van Gundy didn’t seem to put a lot of thought into what he said, but whatever. If the NFL started letting 18 year olds play we’d have guys getting killed on the field.

    If there is any nefarious reason for the NFL age limit it’s economic. The NFL allows the NCAA to make gobs of money off of college football while using it as a de facto developmental league.

  35. The NBA got rid of the jump from high school to the NBA because of the number of kids who were declaring for the draft straight out of high school. The numbers were staggering and a lot of them weren’t drafted at all. The result was they couldn’t even go to college. Their only option was to go overseas or hope to be good enough to play in the D-League. The rule, far from being racially motivated, was designed to be in the best interests of a large majority of the kids. I probably doesn’t help with most of these one-and-done guys but it prevents a lot of these high school kids who wouldn’t get drafted to waste their chance to go to college and improve.

    Also, MLB has over 1200 people drafted–the NBA has ~64. The NFL has a 53-man roster (90 in the offseason) and has to pick people in the draft that can help them. Comparing the NFL and NBA to MLB and the NHL is like comparing apples to oranges.

  36. Guess what? The NFL and NBA can make their own rules on when players are eligible to be drafted because they privately own their respective leagues. If somebody wants to create a league where there’s no age restriction, there’s nobody stopping them.

  37. whiplash013 says:
    February 26, 2018 at 10:10 am
    Both the NHL and MLB have a farm system approach to player development. All NHL teams have minor league teams and all MLB teams have A, AA and AAA teams to help develop the players. NFL has nothing of the the sort nor does the NBA.


    Is the NBA’s D-League not an equivalent of the NHL’s and MLB’s Farm systems?

  38. Where again is this race factor is it always race when it comes to having some intelligence of seeing immature kids make decisions that can ruin their lives. WE already see enough of the fact these young kids being called professionals can’t handle the money and become broke or after the short career end of on the wrong side of law. That is not race that is a fact.

  39. I had to be at least 21 years old before I could drive trucks on interstate highways. It’s the law. In fact, there are many younger people who could be perfectly good drivers, but they have to wait with the rest. And no one cares.

  40. bondlake says:
    February 26, 2018 at 11:33 am
    The good ol’ race card.


    It’s such a wonderful thing.

    More so unequivocally and always ready to deny things that are racist at their core (while not the case in this situation) as an instinctive response.

  41. Stan Van Gundy is right. It’s always been clear that race plays a huge part into why the right to earn a living is couched as some warped pretext as protection of the kids. Fact is, the NBA’s and NFL’s free farm system has made millionaires of the (NCAA)suits in control, while actual performers (workers) get nothing but forgotten after they leave school.

    Like in baseball and hockey, players should be able to ply their trade, as young as they can make it. As it stands, they have a very limited shelf-life, cut even shorter by THE RULES. Of all the respondents here, nobody told you that you couldn’t work at age 18. Hell, it was expected. The only reason you may have gone to college, was to get ready for the job market. Other entertainers get paid at any age, but not ballers.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!