The NCAA and the Destruction of Fandom

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Throughout my life I have been a Florida State fan. Both of my parents graduated from the University as well as my older brother. In addition, I went to Tallahassee Community College and transferred to FSU for one semester before leaving school to move to Boston, MA. Myself and my family have been paying to see the Seminoles play every sport I can think of since I can remember.

That being said, this is probably the most painful piece of writing I have ever felt the need to produce.

If you follow Doodle Sports, you may be aware of a certain T-shirt available in our store. Well, that shirt has caused some concern for the Compliance Office of FSU, and we have been hearing about it. The following is an email we received yesterday from Jim Curry, Associate Athletic Director for Complince.

September 10, 2013

Doodle Sports

RE: Cease and Desist Notice – Commercial Items Bearing the Name, Image or Likeness of Current Florida State University Student-Athlete Jameis Winston

It has come to the attention of Florida State University (FSU) that you have recently sold commercial items bearing the name, image or likeness of current FSU student-athlete Jameis Winston.  In accordance with NCAA Bylaw 12.5.2.2, the University requests that you cease and desist from the further sale of such items as continued activity may compromise the eligibility of the involved student-athlete for future participation in NCAA intercollegiate athletics.

NCAA Bylaw 12.5.2.1 prohibits the use of a student-athlete’s name, image or likeness to advertise, recommend or promote the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind. This prohibition would also include the sale of commercial products or services including any nicknames associated with the student-athlete. As such, the sale of commercial items bearing the student-athlete’s first or last name is prohibited. Additionally, the sale of commercial items that include a recognizable nickname associated with the student-athlete (e.g. Famous Jameis, Jaboo) accompanied by the number “5”, FSU indicia or the name, image or likeness of the student-athlete, or any other variations thereof, is also prohibited.

In an effort to protect the eligibility of our student-athletes and ensure full compliance with NCAA regulations, we ask that you immediately cease and desist from the sale of such items noted above. If you have any questions concerning this specific request or the application of NCAA rules, please contact the FSU Athletics Compliance Office at (phone number). Your cooperation in this matter is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Jim Curry

Associate Athletics Director for Compliance

Florida State University

I can’t say this bothered me, as I appreciate the university looking out for a guy that I , quite frankly, love watching play football (and baseball). After all, that’s what they should do. However, I do find it a bit disconcerting that a reputable university official, would go out of his way to paraphrase NCAA Bylaws to give the impression that we were doing something illegal or immoral that would jeopardize said players eligibility.

Before I continue, let me be clear. I have never met, spoke to, or attempted to speak to Jameis Winston or any person who may know him or represent him. Now that that is out of the way…

The actual Bylaws quoted by Mr. Curry read as follows.

Bylaw 12.5.2.1 Advertisements and Promotions Subsequent to Enrollment
Subsequent to becoming a student-athlete, an individual shall not be eligible for participation in intercollegiate athletics if the individual:

  1. Accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind, or
  2. Receives remuneration for endorsing a commercial product or service through the individual’s use of such product or service.

Bylaw 12.5.2.2 Use of a Student-Athlete’s Name or Picture without Knowledge or Permission
If a student-athlete’s name or picture appears on commercial items (e.g., T-shirts, sweatshirts, serving trays, playing cards, posters, photographs) 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.

There are two things we can take from this. First, FSU did a good job of doing things in accordance with NCAA Bylaws. Also, they should realize that we haven’t used anything that directly represents their players/student-athletes. I attempted to make that clear in my response.

Mr. Curry,

I became aware last night of some issues concerning shirts being sold on my site. In no way, shape, or form do they have any connection to any of your student-athletes and/or university. To help ease your concerns, we have removed the number 5 from the design, and will begin selling the new version immediately. I understand your position as the NCAA bylaw which you partially quoted makes it very clear that:
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.

That said, from my perspective you have done your due diligence, and I do not interpret this being an issue for Florida State going forward. Thank you for your concern.
Please contact me directly with any other questions or concerns regarding this or any other matter.
Thank you,

Rob Clement

President/Founder
DoodleSports.com
The response I received really pushed me in a way that I didn’t appreciate. As you can see in our store we changed our design to ensure nobody, most notably the NCAA could assume that FSU or the player in question were involved in this project. Yet, unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for Curry and FSU.

Mr. Clement,

Thank you for your email and update regarding the t-shirts. We are appreciative of your attempts to rectify this situation. I have had additional follow-up conversations with the Atlantic Coast Conference today regarding the permissibility of the changes you have made to the t-shirt. Unfortunately your design changes still impact the eligibility of our student-athlete and I must request that you cease and desist from the production or sale of t-shirts featuring the phrase, “Famous Jameis.” As explained in my initial email, the sale of items bearing the name or nickname of a current FSU student-athlete will have an impact on the involved student-athlete’s eligibility for intercollegiate competition. The “Famous Jameis” moniker is an unmistakable reference to current FSU student-athlete Jameis Winston, and this assertion is supported by your company’s website and online activity. For example, on September 6, the Doodle Sports Twitter page included a link to a webpage entitled “Famous Jameis” that includes stories and coverage of FSU student-athlete Jameis Winston. The referenced link is included here: http://famous-jameis.com/articles/. This website also asserts that it is a subsidiary of Doodle Sports and the associated Twitter post also includes the hash tag, “FamousJameis.” This same hash tag was used today in a tweet promoting the sale of the t-shirts in question. In light of this online activity, it is clear that Doodle Sports has established a direct correlation between Jameis Winston and the “Famous Jameis” moniker. As such, we request that you cease and desist from sale of these t-shirts in an effort to protect the eligibility of Jameis Winston and ensure Florida State University’s full compliance with NCAA regulations. If you wish, I am happy to discuss this issue further by phone at your convenience.

Thank you,

Jim Curry | Associate Athletics Director for Compliance

Florida State University | Department of Athletics

I have four rules about my internet life.

  1. Do not send me links of my own work. That really bugs me. I know what I write, and what I say, so you don’t have to try to let me in on that secret.
  2. Do not try and tell me what I tweet. Again, I know. I wrote the tweet
  3. Do not play me for an idiot.
  4. Nobody owns Hashtags…

As a former student, it really bugs me that a FSU, a school we regularly support on our site, would go beyond the necessary protocol to intimidate us. I understand that they are, to an extent, acting in accordance with NCAA Bylaws. But the reasoning behind this is plain to see. We have no affiliation with Winston or anyone else who does. Therefore no NCAA violations are being made through the sale of these shirts. The only violation possible would be if FSU did not make attempts to stop us.

If anyone thinks for a second that FSU has their player’s best interest as their number one priority they are crazy.

The fact of the matter is FSU is acting in the same way Texas A&M, LSU, and several other programs have in the past. To FSU, Winston is “meal ticket”. You can go ahead and forget the fact that he is a damn good football player and consider how much publicity the school has received as a result of his skill set.

In fact, read this article explaining how FSU was unwilling to allow Nike to produce #5 licensed FSU jerseys until his coming out party on National TV last week. They changed their mind pretty quickly on that one.

So FSU, and Curry expect me to believe that they are not profiting off of their student-athlete? Even if it is within the NCAA Bible of Bylaws, they are making a buck off of Winston and every other athlete at that school. Which probably explains how Curry can receive a $72,100/year salary to harass former students trying to become successful with a sports website that is in 100% support of all of their teams.
The way I see it, the officials at FSU want nothing more to protect their quarterback from getting “Manziel Disease” as he so eloquently put it. After all, right now he is the hero to the A&M quarterback’s villain.
Further enhancing the idea of players as “meal tickets”, is the sum that a university receives for getting to a BCS National Championship game.
According to Forbes, the University of Alabama received a $23.6 million payout from the BCS last season. Of course the school would not be willing to put that at risk. Meanwhile, the players get a goody bag (yes I know it is full of cool stuff).
The same thing being attempted with Doodle Sports, happened at LSU in the days of the “Honey Badger”. Upon his internet and television fame, multiple companies began producing shirts depicting a “honey badger” not caring. This led to LSU issuing a “Universal Cease & Desist” through their compliance website.
We can’t really fault the universities themselves. Who we can put blame upon is the NCAA.
The rules they have put in place have made it against the rules to be a rabid college football fan like I have been my entire life. If the NCAA had things their way, universities would basically “own” student-athletes during the time they attend their institution.
How does that make any sense?
How is that I have to make a shirt for a player so the 83,000+ at Doak Campbell Stadium can rep their new favorite player?
How is it that “Johnny Football” can’t sign his own name and receive money for it, but the school can sell seats to boosters to have a meal with him?
How can FSU sell season tickets with pictures of LaMarcus Joyner and Cristian Jones on the page, and they get not one cent from those sales?
How does any of this hypocrisy make sense?
To be clear, if I had it my way, I wouldn’t have to make this shirt. The school could, and give the money to the player who makes it so popular. But that is against the rules. That wouldn’t be “fair”.
That, my friends, is why I feel it is my duty to provide the fans with what they want. To support their favorite player on the team they spend hard earned dollars to watch on Saturdays.
The sale must go on….
Go Noles!

 

 

Comments

comments

8 thoughts on “The NCAA and the Destruction of Fandom”

  1. Great article! Just curious what ever came of this? FSU did their job and the NCAA are unreasonable and hypocritical assholes. But were you able to keep selling the shirts? Did FSU leave you alone? I see the shirts say ‘coming soon’ in your store….

    1. Anna,

      We were able to continue selling the shirts, as it is not an NCAA violation of any kind, nor does it jeopardize the eligibility of any student-athlete. The site is going through a major re-boot and we’re expecting to begin selling the shirts again soon. If you’re interested in buying one now, please shoot us an email at doodlesportsblog@gmail.com.

      Thanks!

      1. Thanks! I actually asked because I made my own Jameis shirts, as well as a “Wild and Free” shirt and, as I expected, got a similar letter from FSU Compliance. As a die-hard FSU fan, I found it part humorous and part offensive. I loved your response to them, though I’m not sure I’ll respond at all to them. They’ve done their due diligence, and I’m quite certain FSU has the best team of lawyers that their player-supported money can buy to ensure that no measly little t-shirt shops like us threaten the eligibility of their cash cow Jameis Winston. As fans and business owners that are NOT officially affiliated with university, the NCAA has no jurisdiction nor authority over us.We haven’t violated any copyrights or trademarks and we have no legal nor moral obligation to adhere to the ludicrous bylaws of the NCAA.
        Thanks for writing this post as you helped shed some light on this topic. I think most people feel scared or threatened into stopping production once receiving these letters. Kudos to you for sticking up for our prerogatives and rights as fans and Americans! Go Noles!

  2. So it’s your duty to make money off the likeness and success of someone else? That’s so kind of you. I hate the NCAA involvement in all of this, too, but don’t try to cast yourself as anything more than a guy standing outside the stadium selling airbrushed shirts. If you want to donate all profits to charity in Winston’s name, awesome. Otherwise, you’re not doing anything different from them. Just another guy trying to make a buck off someone else.

    1. Well, I appreciate your concern. However, I can assure you these shirts are 100% quality, not airbrushed, and we don’t sell them outside of stadiums. As for the donation process, NCAA wouldn’t allow that either. And the duty isn’t to profit, rather to allow great fans to wear a great shirt and support a great player.

  3. Wow.. As a lifelong State fan, season-ticket holder, and Father of a future FSU player, (God Willing) It saddens me they would go to such lengths to prevent anyone else from making a couple bucks to fill a need for diehard fans. Now, I really want one of the “cease and desist” shirts!!! LoL

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