Nigel Hayes has been a lot of things during his decorated Wisconsin career and sporadic NBA career, but maybe the noteworthy thing about him to the basketball world is his willingness to speak out on injustices. Apparently, he wasn’t alone on the team in that regard.
The Wisconsin basketball team was one player away from boycotting a Big Ten/ACC Challenge game during the 2016-17 season to protest lack of revenue for NCAA athletes, according to comments from Hayes during a panel at the Aspen Institute in Washington D.C. called “Future of College Sports: Reimagining Athlete Pay.” The idea was reportedly spearheaded by Hayes and agreed on by nearly the entire team.
“It started off in our team group chat,” Hayes said. “One player didn’t feel comfortable with it. We’re a team, we’re a family, we’re brothers. If one guy’s uncomfortable with it, then we’re not going to go through with it.”
Hayes’ comments can be seen in the video below, starting around the 1:25:36 mark.
The game in question was against Syracuse in November 2016, which Hayes and co. eventually won 77-60. That particular game was picked because of its impact on the NCAA, its TV partner ESPN and its lack of impact on the Badgers’ season.
“It was a nationally televised game on ESPN2 at 8 or something,” Hayes said. “We had our goals that year and it wouldn’t impact any of the goals because it’s a non-league game … it’s not the NCAA tournament, so it’s not like we can lose that, and it doesn’t hurt our record in any way because it’s more of a forfeit type of thing than a loss. So it was something I wanted to do.”
Behavior like this isn’t exactly new when it comes to Hayes, who has been outspoken against the NCAA’s lack of compensation for athletes. Among his actions in the past are bringing a provocative sign to a Wisconsin football team and appearing as plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NCAA.
— Badger Beat (@BadgerBeat) October 15, 2016
When asked what his goals with the boycott would have been, Hayes advocated for the Olympic model of athlete compensation, which Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg breaks down here, and getting rid of the term “impermissible benefits.” Hayes also said he doesn’t think the Badgers are the only team to consider the boycott.
“With all the money that’s being made that the players are not receiving, there’s going to be a point where the players don’t play,” Hayes said. “It’s going to take the right player or it’s going to take the right team in the right big-game setting, when the timing is right … I think it’s something that if we did go through with it, we’d probably be having a very different conversation right now.”
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