Yes, that Johnny Manziel. ESPN confirmed that the NCAA and Texas A&M agreed that the defending Heisman Trophy winner will be suspended for the first half of the Aggies’ season-opener against Rice. Although the joint statement said that there was “no evidence that Manziel received payment for signing autographs,” Manziel nevertheless faces punishment because he violated NCAA bylaw 22.214.171.124. That rule prohibits student-athletes from permitting others to use the student-athletes’ names or likenesses for commercial purposes. I don’t think anyone who doesn’t subscribe to TexAgs.com disagrees that Manziel violated that rule.
After 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.
Because the NCAA has no evidence that Manziel actually received money for the thousands of autographs he signed for a few professional memorabilia dealers, it’s clear he’s being punished under the portion of subsection (a) that declares ineligible a student-athlete who “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.”
The problem for the NCAA is that every student-athlete is in violation of bylaw 126.96.36.199 simply by willingly participating in college athletics. Thanks to the various licensing agreements of the NCAA and colleges, to say nothing of tickets to games, matches, and meets, every student-athlete “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” simply by being a student-athlete competing in NCAA-sanctioned athletic events.
At the very least, the NCAA is guilty of selective enforcement in this instance by singling out Manziel for his violation of bylaw 188.8.131.52 when every other student-athlete also is in violation of the rule. The NCAA has three obvious options at this point: 1) lift the arbitrary and capricious Manziel suspension; 2) dissolve itself; or 3) suspend every student-athlete for the first half of the Texas A&M-Rice game.