A liberal group is launching a petition asking the NCAA be required to provide universal health care for student athletes in the wake of a shocking leg injury to Louisville men’s basketball player Kevin Ware.
Ware suffered a compound fracture of his right leg on Sunday during the Cardinals’s game against Duke in the Elite Eight.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee points out the NCAA makes $780 million per year off college athletes, but does not guarantee full payment of medical bills for injuries.
Louisville’s basketball program is also the most profitable in the country, raking in $40 million in revenue annually with a projected $23 to $28 million in profit.
The Ware injury has gained national media attention, but is has also put the spotlight on how college athletes aren’t protected and universities aren’t legally obligated to take care of players once they’re hurt.
From The New York Times:
University officials say they go out of their way to inform students about the limits of insurance. Yet the situation has confused and frustrated athletes and their families, some of whom have had to shoulder large and unexpected medical bills.
Other athletes discover their financial problems long after their bodies have healed. An Ohio University football player, temporarily paralyzed during a workout, learned that he still owed $1,800 in unpaid medical bills when he went to buy a car six years after his injury.
The petition has received over 17,000 signatures in less than 24 hours using a picture of Ware on crutches after his successful surgery, which The Weekly Standard reported was the group is trying to capitalize off of the Ware injury.
Asked if the petition is being used at all for political fundraising efforts, PCCC spokesman Matt Wall told WFPL in a telephone interview the link does lead people to a donation page.
“After you sign the petition as with most it takes you to a thank you page, which at this point has a clip of (MSNBC host) Chris Hayes talking about the issues, options share it on Facebook and send it via Twitter. And it does have an option to chip in $3,” he says. “But that is by no means the point of the petition or a major factor. It’s just something common in online organizing to be an option for people who want to go the extra step.”
PCCC is the same group that attacked Republican Senator Mitch McConnell in a series of campaign ads over the GOP leader’s position on gun control.
McConnell campaign Jesse Benton ripped the liberal group for using Ware’s image and injury as a way to get more contributors.
“Exploiting a talented young man’s serious injury in order to fund misleading political attack ads is about as low as it gets. Once again we see how low some partisan attack groups are willing to go,” he says.
Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green is pushing back against the McConnell campaign’s assertion, saying the senator and Louisville Cardinals booster is supporting current NCAA practices.
In a statement to WFPL, Green says the “tipjar” donations help the group pay for ads pressuring the NCAA to guarantee health care for college players.
“If Mitch McConnell has a problem with this, he is the only person in America defending the NCAA’s practice of making hundreds of millions of dollars per year from the free labor of student athletes, while refusing to guarantee those athletes health coverage if they get hurt,” he says. “This is consistent with the senator’s practice of siding with his big donors in the health insurance industry, pharmaceutical industry, gun industry, and banking industry instead of standing up for his middle-class constituents. We’re proud to have rallied so many people so quickly to pressure the NCAA to right this wrong, and we will keep the pressure on them.”