The story should remember Isaiah Wong as a hero, not a villain


Isaiah Wong

Isaiah Wong
photo: AP

Last week, a worker “allegedly” intended to look for another job if his current employer didn’t give him a raise he demonstrably deserved. The worker knew his worth and “reportedly” felt he should be paid more after beating his deal. You’d think something like that would be applauded, considering we live in a capitalist society. But instead of being championed, Miami Hurricanes star Isaiah Wong became the scapegoat.

The college basketball landscape blew up a seal last week when Wong’s agent – Yes, the NCAA allowed players to have these years ago – told ESPN his client wanted a better NIL deal or he would enter the transfer portal and use his talents elsewhere than South Beach or Coral Gables.

“If Isaiah and his family don’t feel the NIL number meets their expectations, they will enter the transfer portal (Friday) while maintaining his eligibility in the NBA draft and going through the draft process.” said Wong’s agent Adam Papas. “Isaiah would like to stay in Miami. He had a great season and led his team into the Elite Eight. He’s seen what incoming Miami Hurricane basketball players get in NIL and wants his NIL to reflect that he was team leader on an Elite Eight team.

The game had changed, and Wong “supposedly” wanted more. Which makes dollar and sense for a number of reasons.

For one, Wong watched as former Kansas State star Nijel Pack announced he was moving to Miami to become his new teammate. However, one of the main reasons for his move to Florida was that he secured a two-year, $800,000 contract and a free car from LifeWallet, the same company Wong has a ZERO contract with. Wong’s deal isn’t that sweet.

Second, Miami just finished a run to the Elite Eight. As the tenth seed in the Midwest, the Hurricanes were underdogs in their first two games against No. 7 USC and No. 2 Auburn. You can guess who led Miami as the top scorer in both games.

After all, Miami has only had one player named in the ACC All-Conference for consecutive seasons on its roster in the past two years. His name is Isaiah Wong.

Sounds like he exceeded his contract, right? And I only use the term “contract” because the man paying it called it that.

“He was treated exceptionally well by LifeWallet,” LifeWallet CEO John Ruiz told ESPN last week. Ruiz then admitted that Wong was “under contract” and he was opposed to renegotiating his deal. “If he decides that way, I wish him well, but I’m not renegotiating. I can’t tell the amount, but what I can say is that he was treated very fairly.”

This is how things work in a capitalist society. you get a job Do good work. Ask for a raise. And if you’re rejected, you either stay and try to prove yourself, or find a job somewhere else that pays you a better salary. But instead of that being the case, Wong became the scapegoat for all the shortcomings the NCAA found in creating the transfer portal and what is and isn’t allowed under NIL. And after decades of fans and media screaming about how corrupt and unfair the NCAA and amateurism are, the first time a college athlete “allegedly” tried to achieve more was done in a way that went overboard , crucified for it.

Oh, if you’re wondering why I keep saying “allegedly,” it’s because Wong said none of this is what he actually wanted… “allegedly.” He released a statement on social media, essentially saying, “My agent said all of that. Not me.” Mind you, the statement was made after all the backlash happened. No wonder he’s staying in Miami and won’t be moving.

Both sides have reconciled since Ruiz tweeted that the “deal stays the same but like I said on day one I will help him (Wong) get other NIL deals.” With the introduction of NIL, student-athletes who have always been unpaid workers in a billion-dollar industry can finally make some legal money for themselves. And when one of them first tried to negotiate his contract, the same crowd of people who once claimed that these athletes “deserved a bigger piece of the pie” got pissed when one finally asked for one.

And to make matters worse, some were concerned about how Wong’s decision would affect Miami coach Jim Larranaga, as if a 72-year-old coach who signed a contract extension in March and two standouts in Charlie Moore guards and Nigel Pack would be limited in his ability to field a team through the Transfer Portal for consecutive seasons.

Anyone who’s ever made a dollar because of capitalism, believes in self-worth, or has ever claimed that student athletes deserve more should be ashamed if they did anything other than defend Wong for what they “allegedly” felt or the words and deeds of his agent. However, this reaction should have been expected. That’s what happens in America every time a group that has been disenfranchised for decades tries to balance the scales. Because as much as people claim they want equality, they always find a way to fight back when the time comes to make it happen. People love ideas more than execution.

In 1971, Spencer Haywood changed basketball, and people were pissed that a Player had the audacity to take his case against the NBA to the Supreme Court. He eventually won and his case opened the doors to the draft for high school and college players, where they could make money without having to stay in school four years. And while Haywood’s story is often overlooked, he is one of the most important people in basketball history. I hope the story remembers Isaiah Wong the same way.

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