By Michael Parente
Johnny Manziel can pound as many Coronas as wants tonight, spend the first half of tomorrow’s season-opener sleeping off his hangover in a College Station bathhouse, and waltz onto the field at approximately 2 in the afternoon just in time to save the day and reap the benefits of everyone else’s hard work.
Calling this a slap on the wrist would be an insult to whoever coined the phrase, “a slap on the wrist.” Proving once again that football, abortion and guns continue to supersede common sense in Texas, the NCAA and Texas A&M agreed to suspend Manziel for the first half of tomorrow’s opener against Rice in the wake of the autograph-signing scandal in which ESPN uncovered what appeared to be solid evidence suggesting Johnny Football has received compensation for his John Hancock, an NCAA no-no.
After examining the evidence provided by Manziel himself, which I’m sure wasn’t tampered with or filtered in any way, shape or form, the NCAA decided there was no evidence Manziel ever accepted money for his autograph.
Apparently, the NCAA missed the story on ESPN.com that received about a billion page-views in which it was reported that Manziel can be seen on video suggesting he’d rather not take extra cash to sign autographs with special inscriptions because he had done that before and it ultimately led to questions. If ESPN reporter Joe Schad can get his hands on the tapes, I’m sure the NCAA could’ve done the same. If I’m NCAA President Mark Emmert and I read that story, the first thing I do is get a copy of the video to see for myself the context in which Manziel allegedly and indirectly admits to have previously taken money for signing autographs.
My guess is one of two things happened. Either the NCAA didn’t bother to do any additional investigating beyond what Manziel told them or, after realizing college football’s most marketable player screwed up pretty bad, decided to quell the fire by deeming Manziel guilty of a minor infraction and slapping him with an equally-minor punishment, thereby introducing us to bylaw 18.104.22.168.
This is the rule that prohibits players from permitting their name or likeness to be used for commercial purposes, which can include advertising, recommending or promoting sales of commercial products, or accepting payment for the use of their name or likeness. Seems like a pretty broad brush if there ever was one; you’d be just as guilty by doing something as innocuous as signing a football for a sick kid that, unbeknownst to you, winds up selling on eBay for $3,000 as you would be if you Instagrammed a photo of the Brink’s truck backing up onto your lawn after a grueling autograph session.
Bylaw 22.214.171.124 is one of those rules the NCAA can use as its disposal, whether the intent is to make an example out of an otherwise insignificant student-athlete in an attempt to fool the general public into thinking it’s serious about enforcing the rules, or to keep a cash-cow like Manziel out of harms way and – more importantly – on the field with a meek slap on the wrist.
Those who think the majority of the NCAA’s rules are ridiculous to begin with must loath this one when you consider the foolishness of punishing a player for what happens to his autograph once it’s out of his hands. What would prohibit the NCAA from browsing eBay or any other sports memorabilia website and suspending every player whose name is written on a helmet, football or photo? Are players supposed to keep track of every piece of memorabilia they sign?
Regardless, Having Manziel sit out the first half of tomorrow’s season opener is like sending a disobedient child to his room where he can log onto Facebook, Tweet, blog, Skype, Bing or do everything other than think about what he did wrong or what lesson he learned.
Suspending Manziel and handing down real justice would affect the NCAA’s bottom line (money), even if what he did appears to be just as wrong as what got Jim Tressel and half of Ohio State black-balled from the NCAA three years ago. I doubt anyone’s surprised. Did you really think Manziel wouldn’t play tomorrow? Or next week? Or the week after that?
To think any student-athlete regardless of stature would sign as many autographs as Manziel signed for no money whatsoever out of the kindness of his heart is incredibly naive, and the real crime here is the NCAA continuing to masquerade as a legitimate governing body. It had a chance to prove its doubters wrong this time and send a message to anyone trying to pull the wool over its eyes, but instead misfired badly – way worse than any pass Manziel might throw tomorrow.
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