Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has been suspended for the first half of the Aggies’ opening game against Rice for violating NCAA rules by signing an excessive amount of autographs.
The NCAA was unable to find any evidence that Manziel accepted money for signing his autograph, despite the overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence that appeared to exist. As Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports writes in an excellent piece, Manziel was punished because “he knew someone was going to make money off his likeness and he didn’t stop it.”
Manziel was found to have violated NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206, which states as follows:
Use of a Student-Athlete’s Name or Picture Without Knowledge or Permission.
If a student-athlete’s name or picture appears on commercial items (e.g., T-shirts, sweatshirts, serving trays, playing cards, posters) or is used to promote a commercial product sold by an individual or agency without the student-athlete’s knowledge or permission, the student-athlete (or the institution acting on behalf of the student-athlete) is required to take steps to stop such an activity in order to retain his or her eligibility for intercollegiate athletics. Such steps are not required in cases in which a student-athlete’s photograph is sold by an individual or agency (e.g., private photographer, news agency) for private use.
Here are some thoughts on the suspension:
- I perceived this case to be an all or nothing proposition. Manziel would either be found to have accepted money for signing his autograph and suspended, or the NCAA would be unable to find sufficient evidence and Manziel would not be penalized. This middle ground, with Manziel receiving a slap on the wrist, was unexpected and seems clumsy.
- It is somewhat ironic that Manziel was punished under Rule 220.127.116.11, as that rule gave him a boost last year when Manziel was dealing others using the “Johnny Football” trademark. The rule allowed A&M to pursue those parties who were attempting to capitalize on the Johnny Football mark, which cleared the way for Manziel to file his own trademark application and ultimately led the NCAA to rule that a student-athlete could keep any damages awarded in a legal action against those who use their likenesses without permission.
- This situation again highlighted the absurdity of the NCAA’s amateurism rules. Nevertheless, nothing is more valuable to Johnny Manziel than his eligibility to play football at Texas A&M. Without his eligibility his NFL prospects would likely be diminished along with his marketability. So for all the talk that the rules are unfair, Manziel had every reason to follow them, at least until the end of football season.