Paying college athletes would be a move toward a "welfare nanny state" and put small colleges at a disadvantage, retired Lt. Col. Allen West said.
Appearing on NewsMax TV's "America's Forum" with John Bachman and J.D. Hayworth, West reacted to comments from University of Connecticut basketball star Shabazz Napier that he sometimes goes to sleep hungry.
"First of all, I will tell you that having been in Iraq and Afghanistan, I've seen kids who were going hungry, and Shabazz Napier does not look like a person that's going hungry," the former congressman said.
"Maybe in the middle of the night he wants to get a bag of potato chips or like that, something that is not available, but this is also an extension of getting away from a republic and getting more so to a welfare nanny state, a dependency of society where everyone considers themselves to be a victim."
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Napier, whose team won the NCAA championship, said he appreciates the free education athletes get through scholarships, but that the sum of the benefits that NCAA athletes get doesn't cover everything the athletes give.
West said it was important to give the athletes a livable stipend during the season, but that creating a culture of "sports mercenaries" would create a money-driven competitive atmosphere in which small schools would be at a disadvantage.
"If you're a small college, you're not going to get the top athletes because you're not going to be able to pay them enough, and you don't need unions getting involved in college sports. Just don't," West said.
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