Friday Lightning Round: Should NCAA athletes unionize?

Panel sums up this week's hot topics


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 28, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


CLINTON PORTIS, FORMER FOOTBALL PLAYER: I think everybody involved is getting paid off what these student athletes do. How do you pay these players, what is going to become of this? I think it was a step made for future student athletes, but it's how much -- I think that's going to be the biggest question. But I say good luck.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: Each week we ask to you vote online in our Friday Lightning Round poll for your favorite topic of the week. This week was so close we decided to go with the top two because you couldn't really decide.

So we're back with our panel and obviously we're starting with the decision that would allow some football players to unionize potentially, or at least the opportunity to vote to unionize. And where does that go, Charles? Let's start with you.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  Look, I'm not terribly keen on unionization as a mechanism, but it is clear that for about 100 years these students have been truly exploited economically by the NCAA and by the schools. This is for Division I. They make a ton of money. A lot of these kids get injured over time. It's true they get scholarships, but the top tier players are making a fortune for their universities. I think they ought to be paid one way or the other.

BREAM: There are lot of Breams who went to college on scholarships. So very familiar for a lot of people, they look at this and say it's a great way to get an education if you have this particular talent. Is that enough? Are we going to have W-2's, scholarship money for the most part is not taxed for these players. But as Charles said, they bring in millions to their universities. We are talking about top Division I programs.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: To me, I don't see -- I don't even understand why this is a controversy it seems so obvious they should be able to do this. If they want to organize to be able to, you know, have collective bargaining and to be able to have some sort of power against the university, I think they should be able to. They are making money for the university. There is no argument against it except from the university because the university doesn't want it because it doesn't benefit them.

BREAM: And maybe Steve Hayes because I see him shaking his head. I mean there are those who say --

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: My two fellow squishes here on the panel. Let me correct the record once again. Look they get scholarships. They have an opportunity to get an education. I strongly disagree with Charles' claim that they are exploited economically. Good lord -- these are people who get to go to college and get it paid for in a way that many people don't. I think they do fine. The current system is just fine. Keep it the way it is.


POWERS: -- from your standpoint, why doesn't the free market dictate in this case --


HAYES: The free market does. Nobody is forcing them to it take it a scholarship.

BREAM: They can say no to the scholarships if they don't want to go.

POWERS: If they want to go in and negotiate a better deal, why can't they?

BREAM: They can go to a different school.

HAYES: Because they can't get paid, because they're amatuers.

KRAUTHAMMER: If their wages were auction, the top tier would be getting 10 times the amount a scholarship is worth.

BREAM: And that's what professional sports is all about.

KRAUTHAMMER: That's the glory of capitalism.

BREAM: Let's move on to topic two, which was the other one that came out really tied at the top of our poll. It's about the developments with Ukraine and Russia. We heard this afternoon obviously that there was a call between President Obama, President Putin, and our understanding is, at least according to the White House, that President Putin is the one who initiated this phone call. Steve, does that suggest a change in this situation to you at all that the outreach was from Russia this time and not from Mr. Obama to Mr. Putin?

HAYES: No, it doesn't. I mean, the White House put out, certainly put out its version of the call and as we heard from Ed, they make quite a deal of the fact that Putin supposedly called President Obama. Russian state media played the call precisely the opposite way, as you might expect, so that President Putin called President Obama and told him about all these incursions and extremists that are threatening Ukrainians.  Nothing has really changed. Until we see the president in the White House really threaten consequences, I don't think we will see any change.

BREAM: What do you make of it, Kirsten?

POWERS: I just don't know what consequences he could possibly threaten other than invading the country that is going to change what Putin is doing here. This is something that is being done independent of the United States. It is, you know, a situation that he would be doing regardless of anything that we do. And I will wait to hear from Charles about the thing that Obama could do to stop him from behaving the way that he is behaving.


POWERS: I mean stop. I don't mean did something so we could feel good about ourselves and pat ourselves on the back. But actually stop him.


BREAM: Alright, Charles.
KRAUTHAMMER: Stopping is the wrong question. The question is can you alter his calculation? He has got, perhaps, 100,000 troops on the border. He has to decide if it's worth invading. Do you an air lift into Kiev where you bring in tons of weapons, NATO air lift, and it would alter his calculations. The Ukrainians are not going to sit back as in the Crimean peninsula. They are going to fight. That would increase the cost. So that's a very important thing that we could do immediately that would actually alter the calculation. And we aren't even talking about it -- Obama has ruled it out.

BREAM: OK. You want to send a message. Now, very little time and I want to give you all a chance to say winners and loser, and I mean quickly.  Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Democracy in America. The country recalibrating the decision between security and liberty in changing the way that the metadata is handled by NSA, that's how we ought to do it. Loser, democracy in America. Obama alters for the 38th time deadlines in ObamaCare. Complete disregard of the rule of law.

BREAM: Kirsten?

POWERS: I'm somewhat similar. My winner is ObamaCare for hitting at least we believe their 6 million target, but they are also unfortunately the loser now hitting all-time low in the AP poll showing that only 26 percent of Americans support it.


HAYES: My loser is Bruce Braley, the Iowa Senate candidate who got caught on tape making fun of Iowa farmers. My winner is my nine-year-old daughter Grace because today is her ninth birthday.

BREAM: Awe, happy birthday Grace! Fantastic. We had to get to that. Thank you guys so much.  And happy birthday to Grace. That's it for the panel, but stay tuned. If you have missed embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford you are going want to want to stick around. You don't want to miss what's next.

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