Yesterday news broke that the NCAA is investigating Texas A&M star football player Johnny Manziel for getting paid at least $10,000 to sign memorabilia for an autograph broker. If the allegations turn out to be true, Manziel would have violated a NCAA rule that states:
Subsequent to becoming a student-athlete, an individual shall not be eligible for participation in intercollegiate athletics if the individual:
a. Accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind, or
b. Receives remuneration for endorsing a commercial product or service through the individual’s use of such product or service.
Let’s just assume this story turns out to be true. Say he got paid $50,000 to sign 999 photos. Why shouldn’t he? We live in a capitalist world. We’re all here to make enough money to buy the things we want/need. As a student athlete on what I am assuming is a full scholarship, his tuition is paid for. I’m sure his room and board is paid for too.
But what about all the extras? School isn’t just textbooks and classes and football. College is about parties, spring break trips, dating, concerts, etc. College-age guys [and gals] love video games, computers, smart phones, taking road trips with friends, buying new clothes, going out to bars. All of those things cost money. Sure, his parents are “loaded” and Johnny shouldn’t want for much in life. Maybe his parents give him spending money, a monthly allowance of sorts. Maybe his parents don’t. None of us know what his family dynamic is like. We can guess, but we don’t have access to his bank account to know for sure.
Some people would suggest he get a part-time job so he can pay for those extras. He’s got one, only it’s a full-time job: playing collegiate level football and playing it well. A full-time student with a full-time job, that he isn’t getting paid for. His likeness is used in video games, to help raise money for the school, to promote college football on TV, just to name a few. He doesn’t get paid a cent for any of that. The college football world and the media circus surrounding it makes billions of dollars off of players names and likenesses. Those young men and women, most of whom don’t come from wealthy families, could sure use a percentage of the profits.
Take for example the case of Lucas Vincent. A football player at Mizzou, he tweeted in early July about not understanding why he should have to pay for a videogame that features a football player that is based on him. He even alluded to the fact that buying the game, which costs $60, would put a strain on his finances for the next two months.
I remember those days. When I could stretch $100 to last me a month. The good ol’ days, right? Ha. They were horrible. I hated being a poor college student, so I financed my “fun” with credit cards. Oops. I hear what Vincent is saying: being a poor college student sucks. It’s hard. I bet it’s especially hard to know that if, as a college football player, you were instead in the pros, you’d be getting paid thousands [if not millions] of dollars to be featured in a video game. In my book, that’s called getting the shaft.
Now, I’m not saying that just because Johnny Football is getting shafted by the NCAA and all of the entities making money off of him that he should get a free pass to break the rules. Not at all. I strongly believe that rules and guidelines are in place for collegiate athletics for a reason – to protect young adults. This bylaw though? It’s outdated and a bunch of phooey. It needs to be changed. In this day and age, I’m constantly surprised that more college athletes aren’t standing up for themselves against this. College is expensive, not just the education, but the whole experience. Do I think Johnny Football was doing this as a way to buck the rules? No. I’d put money on his friend and personal assistant Nathan Fitch telling Johnny it’d be a quick way to make some cash and that there was no way he could get caught. Johnny, I hope it was a lot of money.
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