While Manziel and his peers are forbidden from making money off their images and the sale of related commercial products, the NCAA and Manziel’s school are not. The NCAA would begrudge Manziel a $7,500 payday, but the NCAA and the universities will continue to rake in millions off its players. According to the Texas A&M website, Manziel produced about $37 million in media exposure for the school.
When the AutographGate story broke, you could go to an NCAA website — ShopNCAAsports.com — and buy Manziel’s No. 2 Texas A&M jersey for anywhere from $22 to $65. When this was noted by ESPN’s Jay Bilas, producing the inevitable backlash over such blatant hypocrisy, the NCAA immediately announced that it would stop selling player jerseys.
The sale of player jerseys was not only hypocritical, it was arrogant. With one hand, the NCAA was profiting off players and forbidding them from earning money off their own names; with the other hand, the NCAA was fighting a milestone legal battle over this very issue in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit.
O’Bannon, a former UCLA basketball star, is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA that will include past and possibly current collegiate athletes. They are suing the NCAA for using their images for profit without compensating them (originally, this was about video football games). It is the most serious legal challenge the NCAA has faced. It could have a profound and devastating effect, potentially costing the NCAA hundreds of millions of dollars in everything from video games to TV contracts. College sports might have to subsist on half the funding, and, if current players are added to the suit, it could lead to pay-for-play in college sports.
The bottom line: Manziel and O’Bannon could bring sweeping changes to college sports. Given the greed of the NCAA and its antiquated notion of amateurism, such trouble seems well deserved.
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. EMAIL: email@example.com
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