If Johnny Manziel is found guilty of violating the NCAA policies of profiting from autographed memorabilia, not only will the young superstar’s professional career be at stake, he will also be ineligible to play for the rest season. Although Manziel undoubtedly knew about the NCAA’s stringent rules about selling autographed sports items, is it fair for Manziel to suffer such devastating consequences because of an ignorant oversight? More to the point, should college athletes be mercilessly cast out from their respective college organizations for violating a rule that some would consider hypocritical and unjust?
On December 23, 2010 five Ohio State Buckeyes players were suspended for violating the NCAA’s policies for selling championship rings, jerseys and awards. On top of that, the players were receiving improper benefits from their personas by receiving discounts from a tattoo parlor that occurred up to two years prior to the unfortunate incidents that transpired afterwards. As a result, the players who were found guilty of these accusations were forced to repay the money they made from their sports items along with serving the five game suspensions.
While it is understandable that the NCAA was strict in enacting their no tolerance mandates, the fact that they failed to understand the context of why these players were selling their awarded memorabilia is simply mind boggling. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the punishments should have been mitigated because of how the players were planning to use the money they had received. “The time this occurred with these young men was a very tough time in our society. It’s one of the toughest economic environments in our history,” he said. The decisions that they made they made to help their families.” Yet, even with this knowledge, the NCAA still refused to make an exception for these extenuating circumstances and the players who were found guilty of their individual violations didn’t receive a shred of forgiveness for their ill-advised actions.
Unfortunately for Manziel, not only will the NCAA most likely find him guilty of violating their policies, they will most likely instill the maximum penalty of forbidding Manziel to participate in athletic activities for the entire regular season. The evidence against Manziel has been fairly damning thus far with sources reporting Manziel received money in exchange for autographs on six separate occasions. If Manziel is found to be complicit in all of these instances, the NCAA will lose one their most marketable college athletes, which could hurt college footballs popularity as a whole.
Although the NCAA’s controversial policies may be out of line and questionable in some instances, it is ultimately a measuring stick that is seemingly unbiased in how it punishes athletes for violating its mandates. Whether it’s a young freshman that acted in the heat of the moment or a veteran all-American who knowingly overlooked the consequences of his actions, the regulations in place dictate that any player who is violations of the NCAA’s regulations will be met with the exact same punishment. While this doesn’t absolve the NCAA of instilling policies that are unfair and hypocritical, it at least provides a consistent lay out of what is acceptable and what isn’t. This type of consistency at least provides athletes with a solid framework for determining what actions are appropriate and which ones will condemn their collegiate careers and beyond.
In the end, while Manziel should have the right to profit from his likeliness and any autographed memorabilia, his ignorance and disregard for the NCAA’s rules is something that shouldn’t be forgiven. While Manziel may not deserve a yearlong suspension for his transgressions, he shouldn’t be let off the hook for committing multiple violations when he ultimately should have known better. Assuming Manziel is found guilty for his infractions, the young Heisman winner will have no one to blame but himself for severely jeopardizing his chances to become an iconic NFL superstar.