A high-profile legal battle between the NCAA and several plaintiffs to decide if the athletics governing body illegally profited from player likenesses has again raised questions of what defines terms like “amateurism” in college athletics.
At stake in the case, whose plaintiffs include former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, are the rights of college athletes forbidden from making a dime from their abilities, but whose likenesses are appropriated by companies and universities to build their brands.
UCLA, an institution revered for its record 109 NCAA national titles, and its affiliates should take their support from the pockets of private interests as a means of backing student-athletes.
The NCAA lists and enforces a series of eligibility requirements for student-athletes in order to rid college athletics of profit and athlete-agent relations.
Licensing companies and universities alike frequently fail to uphold that same appreciation of amateurism in profiting from student-athletes enrolled in NCAA institutions . UCLA is no exception.
Both online and in the UCLA Store, owned and operated by Associated Students UCLA, this violation is bold-faced. In its online football apparel section, the UCLA Store offers both No. 11 and No. 17 football jerseys – the exact numbers of two of the UCLA football team’s captains, senior linebacker Anthony Barr and redshirt sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley.
ASUCLA Executive Director Bob Williams and Patrick Healey, director of general merchandise for the UCLA Store could not be reached for comment.
ASUCLA would better serve and respect UCLA’s student-athlete community by refusing to sell athletic apparel modeled after current UCLA athletes like Hundley and Barr. While they bear no names, these “replica” jerseys gain attention for their likeness to Hundley and Barr’s true jerseys in both color and number, creating a profit that toes the line of legality and oversteps that of morality.
These coincidences are hardly isolated. Just in time to showcase the 2012-2013 basketball season, the UCLA Store proudly displayed star freshman Shabazz Muhammad’s No. 15 jersey for sale.
When then-UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin broke the school’s all-time rushing record in the alternate L.A. Nights uniform, an abundance of navy blue No. 23 shirts could be found in the store.
In accordance with NCAA rules, none of the four – Barr, Hundley, Muhammad or Franklin – saw any benefit from the use of their likenesses.
Much of the apparel within the store is licensed by UCLA Trademarks & Licensing, a division of ASUCLA, but the school is represented by the Collegiate Licensing Company, which, along with EA Sports, reached a tentative settlement for $40 million with O’Bannon and several other former and current college athletes.
ASUCLA can act as a trailblazer in its observance of student-athlete rights by removing the memorabilia in question. UCLA, as the nation’s No. 32 merchandise seller among universities in 2012 and a major NCAA presence, should be first to convey the message that high-profile student-athletes are college students, not accounting assets.