Names, Images, Likeness Begins The Unraveling Of The NCAA Extortion Machine

Names, Images, Likeness Begins the Unraveling Of The NCAA Extortion Machine

Just think of the millions of dollars college athletes have lost over the last 10 years because of the NCAA’s unwillingness to allow college athletes to generate dollars off their own names, images, and likeness(NIL). Well, those days are officially over because the NCAA has finally succumbed to the pressure placed at their doorstep largely by Adam Silver and the National Basketball Association.

To be clear this isn’t a story about the NCAA doing the right thing out of the kindness of their heart, rather this is an extortion story which is largely about how the NCAA for decades took advantage of student-athletes and profited off their names, images, and likeness.

Why The NCAA Caved

The NCAA unraveling began the second the #1 college basketball recruit in the country, Jalen Green opted to join the NBA G-League instead of heading to college. The NBA who has been struggling for years trying to figure out how to bring young talent into their league via an alternative route to college and international basketball created a new pathway to the NBA via the G-League. Top prospects like Jalen Green will ink $500,000 contracts. Add-in endorsement dollars and most elite players will make over $1 million dollars a year. Not bad for an 18-year-old kid.

To be clear, the announcement the NCAA made today, would have never happened if Adam Silver and the NBA had done nothing.

The NCAA Extortion Machine

For decades the NCAA has extorted college athletes with ridiculous rules which prevented athletes from having the opportunity to make money. The NCAA has always hidden under the storyline that their scholarship athletes receive a free-education in exchange for playing their respective sports.

To be fair, this system made a lot of sense back in the 1970s before billion-dollar television contracts and social media influencers became the norm. But as the world has changed, as money went from thousands of dollars to billions of dollars it has been clear since the late 80s that college athletes were being extorted by the NCAA.

Beyond television contracts, the NCAA makes hundreds of millions of dollars of selling merchandise which involves their student-athletes. T-shirts, jerseys, beer mugs, hats, caps, trucker hats, shot glasses, games, video games, and more. The bottom line is not a single penny has ever gone to a student-athlete. In most professional sports, there is a players union who looks out for their players’ rights, but in college sports, a players union does not exist.

Why isn’t there a players union in college sports? The answer is the NCAA squashed every attempt over the last twenty years. ‘Greed is Good’ must be the slogan the NCAA board of governors have engraved in their conference room and at the bottom of their whiskey glasses.

Today’s announcement is not the official unraveling of the NCAA extortion machine, rather this is the first step in what will certainly turn into years of court battles between student-athletes, the NCAA, and a bunch of lawyers that will now be able to afford beachfront property in Newport Beach, California.

Sure student-athletes will now at least be given the opportunity to make some money off their own names which is a huge step in the right direction but don’t think for a second that the NCAA is going to simply hand over the entire farm. The NCAA is not really in the business of protecting student-athletes, it’s about making as much as possible for the NCAA, not its students-athletes.

The Actual Announcement

The NCAA’s highest governing body has taken unprecedented steps to allow college athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness.

April 29, 2020 8:30am

At its meeting this week, the Board of Governors supported rule changes to allow student-athletes to receive compensation for third-party endorsements both related to and separate from athletics. It also supports compensation for other student-athlete opportunities, such as social media, businesses they have started and personal appearances within the guiding principles originally outlined by the board in October.

While student-athletes would be permitted to identify themselves by sport and school, the use of conference and school logos, trademarks or other involvement would not be allowed. The board emphasized that at no point should a university or college pay student-athletes for name, image and likeness activities.

The board directed all three divisions to consider appropriate rules changes based on recommendations from its Federal and State Legislation Working Group.

“Throughout our efforts to enhance support for college athletes, the NCAA has relied upon considerable feedback from and the engagement of our members, including numerous student-athletes, from all three divisions,” said Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and president of Ohio State. “Allowing promotions and third-party endorsements is uncharted territory.”

The board’s recommendations now will move to the rules-making structure in each of the NCAA’s three divisions for further consideration. The divisions are expected to adopt new name, image and likeness rules by January to take effect at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

The board is requiring guardrails around any future name, image and likeness activities. These would include no name, image and likeness activities that would be considered pay for play; no school or conference involvement; no use of name, image and likeness for recruiting by schools or boosters; and the regulation of agents and advisors.

The board’s action is the latest step by the Association to support college athletes and modernize its rules regarding name, image and likeness. In October, the board identified guiding principles to ensure that any changes support college sports as a part of higher education. Any changes adopted by the divisions must be in concert with the following principles and guidelines:

* Ensuring student-athletes are treated similarly to nonathlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate. 

* Maintaining the priorities of education and the collegiate experience to provide opportunities for student-athlete success.

* Ensuring rules are transparent, focused and enforceable, and facilitating fair and balanced competition. 

* Making clear the distinction between collegiate and professional opportunities. 

* Making clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible. 

* Reaffirming that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university. 

* Enhancing principles of diversity, inclusion and gender equity. 

* Protecting the recruiting environment and prohibiting inducements to select, remain at or transfer to a specific institution.

The board relied on a comprehensive report from the Federal and State Legislation Working Group to inform its recommendations.

“The NCAA’s work to modernize name, image and likeness continues, and we plan to make these important changes on the original timeline, no later than January 2021,” said Gene Smith, Ohio State senior vice president and athletics director and working group co-chair. “The board’s decision today provides further guidance to each division as they create and adopt appropriate rules changes.”

In its report, the working group recognized that the rules needed to accomplish the modifications may differ by division and stressed the need for appropriate regulation in the future.

“As we evolve, the Association will continue to identify the guardrails to further support student-athletes within the context of college sports and higher education,” said Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East and working group co-chair. “In addition, we are mindful of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education, college sports and students at large.  We hope that modernized name, image and likeness rules will further assist college athletes during these unprecedented times and beyond.”

The board also discussed the potential challenges to modernizing rules posed by outside legal and legislative factors that could significantly undermine the NCAA’s ability to take meaningful action. As a result, it will engage Congress to take steps that include the following:

* Ensuring federal preemption over state name, image and likeness laws.

* Establishing a “safe harbor” for the Association to provide protection against lawsuits filed for name, image and likeness rules.

* Safeguarding the nonemployment status of student-athletes.

* Maintaining the distinction between college athletes and professional athletes.

* Upholding the NCAA’s values, including diversity, inclusion and gender equity.

The recommendations for federal engagement were provided by the Presidential Subcommittee on Congressional Action, which was formed as part of the Federal and State Legislation Working Group to provide input on the potential assistance the NCAA should seek from Congress.

“The evolving legal and legislative landscape around these issues not only could undermine college sports as a part of higher education but also significantly limit the NCAA’s ability to meet the needs of college athletes moving forward,” Drake said. “We must continue to engage with Congress in order to secure the appropriate legal and legislative framework to modernize our rules around name, image and likeness. We will do so in a way that underscores the Association’s mission to oversee and protect college athletics and college athletes on a national scale.”

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