Can Olympic/Student Athletes Obtain Endorsements?

That face is worth a million endorsements

We love our readers. Especially when they make comments on this blog and send e-mails with questions or compliments.

Reader, Sokki Chen asks:

How would the UAAA be applied to an Olympic athlete who is also a NCAA student athlete. If (s)he wants to hire an agent to negotiate deals for certain appearances prior/after the Olympic Games, how would the legislation be applied, given that the athlete is from a UAAA state.

This is a great question (I wouldn’t expect anything less from a reader of this blog).

The answer is that the NCAA Bylaws act as the restriction against hiring an agent to obtain endorsements while an Olympic Athlete is also competing as an NCAA Student Athlete. The UAAA actually has no relevance in this issue.

There is an excellent case study to examine in understanding this issue. Jeremy Bloom, Olympic skiier who placed 6th in the moguls during the Torino Winter Games, was not successful when he sued the NCAA for restricting him from obtaining endorsements while he was playing Division I football at the University of Colorado.

The case was Bloom v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, and was decided by the Colorado Court of Appeals, 5th Division (on appeal after a Trial Court decision). Bloom had endorsements before he was originally recruited by the University of Colorado. Once enrolled, UC petitioned the NCAA to allow Bloom to retain his endorsements while performing on the football field. When the NCAA denied the petition, Bloom dropped his endorsements, but decided to sue the NCAA.

Bloom tried to argue using the NCAA Bylaws, but those rules were also used against his case.

Applicable Bylaws:
NCAA Bylaw 12.1.2: [a] professional athlete in one sport may represent a member institution in a different sport.
NCAA Bylaw A student may receive remuneration for activity initiated prior to enrollment, if the individual became involved in such activities for reasons independent of athletic activity.
NCAA Bylaw A student-athlete may not receive any remuneration for value or utility that the student-athlete may have for the employer because of that publicity, reputation, fame, or personal following that he or she has obtained because of athletics ability.

Also, the Bylaws explicitly say that once an individual has become a student-athlete, he/she cannot participate in intercollegiate athletics if he/she accepts remuneration by endorsing a product or allows a company to use his/her name in advertising their product.

Bloom’s case rested on the application of NCAA Bylaw 12.1.2, but the other Bylaws mentioned trumped his argument, and thus creates the common law to provide an answer to the question presented.

The Colorado Court of Appeals, 5th Division stated in its judgment:

“although student-athletes have the right to be professional athletes, they do not have the right to simultaneously engage in endorsement or paid media activity and maintain their eligibility to participate in amateur competition.”

Because of the fact that it is hard to say that a student-athlete would not be using any of his prestige as a collegiate athlete to bolster endorsements, the NCAA has decided to ban the taking of endorsements for all collegiate athletes (even part-time Olympians).

I hope that this answer sheds some light on the issue. Now I have to dedicate another post to answering Sokki’s 2nd question. Once again, please send these types of issues to me. I love answering these important questions that are very relevant in the business of Sports.

p.s. – I figure I should provide a definition of remunerate:

re·mu·ner·ate – To pay (a person) a suitable equivalent in return for goods provided, services rendered, or losses incurred; recompense.

[tags]olympics, college, athletes, endorsements, ncaa, ncaa bylaws, uaaa, sports agent, jeremy bloom[/tags]