Wisconsin senior forward Nigel Hayes said he held a sign last weekend on ESPN's College GameDay saying he was a broke college student. The demonstration, according to Hayes, was to help future student-athletes get compensation for playing major college sports.
Hayes, who joined the ESPN/ABC News podcast Capital Games on Thursday, said he knows he won't benefit from his activism since he will be a professional next year. "If this thing does change, I won't benefit from it and it's completely fine,'' Hayes said on Capital Games.
"A lot of things that are changed, the person whose doing the change or advocating for it, rarely reaps those benefits,'' Hayes said. "I'm doing it for the hopes that if there is another kid when Thanksgiving comes around and he wants to see his mother, he'll be able to have those couple of dollars to buy a plane ticket to go home and see his family.''
Hayes said he knows he's not a typical "broke" college student. He also said the funds raised by his sign went to a local Boys and Girls Club and that it was cleared by the Wisconsin compliance department after the weekend, when he reviewed the matter with the school.
He said he faces no potential violations for his actions.
"I did it to create the conversation of paying student-athletes. I don't need money personally,'' Hayes said. "I'm not necessarily the embodiment of broke. I definitely have the things I need in college, and my family can help me out. But I can't generalize that and speak for everyone. So I want to be a voice for those who aren't in the fortunate position I'm in. The sign was to be the voice. A voice doesn't travel as far.''
Hayes said he does have access to exceptional medical care, travel and gear by being a high-profile student-athlete. He said he receives $1,500 a month in a cost-of-attendance stipend. Athletes have money for food, according to Hayes, but most of them don't have the necessary funds for extracurricular activities, going out or even buying plane tickets to go home.
Hayes said his food stipend ran out once.
"We ran out of money on our [Wisconsin] eating cards and dining hall money,'' Hayes said. "There were a couple of weeks we didn't have money for food, so we were just hanging around the locker room and trying to find whatever was in there or at a training table close by. We weren't allowed to get more money."
Hayes said he would be fine with a payment system in which the best players on the team received more than the bench players.
"(Former Badger) Frank [Kaminsky] got more playing time than one of the guys at the end of the bench because he was a better player. If we were in the market where they were allowed to pay us for our image likeness and Frank is the better player and gets more, then that's understandable,'' Hayes said. "It's like you would with anything in the world not related to sports. The better you are in your job, the higher you get paid for it."
Hayes said college athletes should be able to market themselves for money and take advantage of their likeness and image. If that were to happen, then maybe the schools "wouldn't necessarily have to pay any players. If you just allowed outside sources to market and pick and choose who they want, then there's no way you can say someone is doing something unfairly."
Hayes also spoke about two high-profile social justice issues. He said he supported teammate Bronson Koenig's decision to protest against the Dakota Pipeline project on protected Native American lands. Hayes added that no discussions have taken place on whether the Badgers will protest or do anything symbolic during the national anthem.
"So far, we haven't discussed as a team anything, and myself personally, I haven't pegged anything that I was going to do or if I will do anything,'' Hayes said. "But I still support (Niners quarterback) Colin Kaepernick 100 percent. He has a right, and he's kneeling for a flag that promotes justice and equality for all, and justice and equality isn't given to all in this country."