The following is a guest contribution from Heather Brittany (@HeatherBrit). Heather is currently a law student at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles and alum at the University of Southern California.
I know, you all are dying to get your hands on my John David Booty autographed football, but I’ll never part with it – and if you have memorabilia autographed by student-athletes you shouldn’t either.
As a string of new students prepare to enter the crazy world of college, it seems like as good of a time as any to remind them (and “fans”) about autographed memorabilia. Of course, there is nothing wrong with getting your favorite player’s autograph. I know many true fans who have a growing collection of fun memorabilia in their family rooms (guilty). These fans aren’t the problem…the problem resides with individuals who look to get items signed in order to sell them for their own personal profit. (Looking at you EBay guy currently doing this.)
First, don’t do that – it’s creepy. These athletes are just kids who are working their tails off and receiving (at most) a free education (and maybe a ridiculously small stipend). They can’t make a dime off of their names and you shouldn’t be able to either. The idea of you swooning over these athletes to receive their autograph, in order to then sell it, is just plain gross.
Second, it is against NCAA bylaws. Sure, the NCAA may not be the boss of you, but it is the boss of these kids, and you could ruin their careers. NCAA Bylaws 12.5.1 and 184.108.40.206 state that individuals and commercial entities may not use the name, picture, appearance, or likeness of an NCAA student-athlete for promotional purposes (subject to strict exceptions). This includes autographed memorabilia (name/likeness + pecuniary gain = bad). If this rule is violated it could render a student ineligible.
Furthermore, the NCAA places a requirement on student-athletes to actively regulate this. NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11 “Use of a Student-Athlete’s Name or Picture Without Knowledge or Permission” states, “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.” (Note: this does not apply in cases in which a student-athlete’s photograph is sold by an individual or agency for private use.) Therefore, not only are you already being creepy and jeopardizing the student’s eligibility by selling autographed memorabilia, you are also being annoying by making them do more work.
So, if you’re a student-athlete, what do you do?
As a preventative measure try to personalize memorabilia as much as possible. There is a much smaller market for “To Heather” signed footballs than there is for those that simply say “Go Trojans!” Therefore, the more personalized the item, the less you have to worry about someone hawking it on the internet.
However, you obviously won’t always have the opportunity (or time) to personalize things. If it is brought to your attention that someone is selling memorabilia with your signature, simply notify your school’s compliance office. There are people that are paid by your university in order to protect your eligibility. These people are not the bad guys and are on your side. Likely, they’ll send a cease-and-desist letter to the seller. This letter will educate the seller on the NCAA bylaws and request the immediate removal of the item (cease) and to refrain from any future sales of items containing student-athlete’s names, pictures, likeness, etc. (desist).
Moral of the story? Don’t be a creep and try to make money off of kids… mkay? Thanks.