By Alicia M. Cohn - 11/14/11 04:58 PM EST
A House Democrat on Monday called for a congressional investigation into the NCAA in the wake of what he called “a year of scandal” that included the sex abuse allegations that have rocked Penn State.
“This fabric of amateurism and student athletes that [the NCAA tries] to parade before us is really a canard,” Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) said on CNN. “This is big business, it’s an exploitive business, it’s a business that not only exploits our children economically, athletically, but it also exploits them sexually now. How vast, how widespread, is this sexual exploitation within the NCAA system?”
Rush slammed the NCAA leadership for what he called a "deafening" silence on serious athlete-related scandals this year, such as the ongoing scandal at Penn State.
"The silence of the NCAA leadership is deafening. We want to hear the NCAA speak to this issue,” said Rush, a liberal Democrat who has criticized the NCAA in the past.
The NCAA told ESPN last week that it "will defer in the immediate term to law enforcement officials since [the Penn State] situation involved alleged crimes."
NCAA President Mark Emmert said: "As the facts are established through the justice system, we will determine whether association bylaws have been violated and act accordingly."
Rush earlier this month compared the NCAA to Al Capone and the Mafia, calling the organization "one of the most vicious, most ruthless organizations ever created by mankind."
A NCAA spokesman pushed back in response at the time, saying Rush "obviously doesn't know the NCAA."
“The NCAA and its member institutions provide over $2 billion per year in scholarships, financial assistance and academic support to student-athletes, second only to the federal government,” NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said. “Student-athlete success is our mission."
Rush responded to the statement on CNN, saying the organization might look “clean” on the outside but the inside is guilty of “systemic exploitation of our children.”
He pledged to ask Congress to look into the alleged corruption within the NCAA.
“You break [the cycle] by making sure the NCAA operates, first of all, within a moral framework, and second within a legal framework,” he said.