Free Johnny Manziel, Abolish the NCAA

Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke assesses the Johnny Football situation.

The NCAA is doing a great job maintaining its reputation as the sleaziest, most hypocritical sports organization in America. According to media reports, the NCAA is investigating Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel because he may have profited from his John Hancock.

Allegedly, a South Florida autograph broker paid Manziel a five-figure fee to sign hundreds of memorabilia items when last year's Heisman trophy winner was in town to watch the national championship game between the University of Alabama and the University of Notre Dame.

Under NCAA rules, Manziel is not allowed to make a few thousand bucks signing footballs and jerseys. Yet Texas A&M can collect an extra $37 million from the additional media exposure he brought the school's football program during his Heisman run last season. Star college players can't sign any endorsement deals, but the NCAA has no problem licensing their likenesses in order to sell jerseys, footballs, replica helmets, and video games.

Last week, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas exposed the NCAA's hypocrisy by going into the search engine of, typing the name of famous college players, and getting page results filled with items connected to the players' schools and jersey numbers. Within two hours, the search engine was disabled and an embarrassed NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that the site would no longer sell team-related merchandise.

That's why it's great to see six current college football players joining former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon's federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, EA Sports, and Collegiate Licensing Co., alleging that student-athletes deserve a share of the billions of dollars in television and retail revenues that flow into the NCAA, conferences and member schools. College football and basketball players are tired of being screwed over.

The NCAA continues to argue that student-athletes don't deserve compensation because they are getting a six-figure quality education, plus room and board, for free. The truth is that college football and basketball players are paying for their own education when fans pack into sold-out stadiums and arenas, corporations are buying sky boxes, and replicas of their jerseys are being bought by thousands of people.

It's time the NCAA emancipate collegiate athletics.

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