Nefarious jersey salesman A.J. Green returns to the field this weekend following his four-game suspension. Critics of the punishment pointed to the array of #8 jerseys for sale on Georgia’s website. Skeptics countered that the entitled athletes should be kept down. There were plenty of plausible past #8’s Georgia fans could be honoring. The latter argument is disingenuous and stupid and Nebraska’s latest promotion makes Green’s punishment look even more ridiculous.
Nebraska is auctioning game-worn jerseys from their Oct. 16 showdown with Texas. All of them, with opening bids starting at $250. Nebraska is not exploiting the players likenesses, however, because the school will remove the names from the back of the jerseys before distributing them.
Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez wears No.3. No.3 is used in the Nebraska banner advertising the sale. Bidding on his jersey has, as of the writing of this post, reached $1,000.* Now, three is an aesthetically pleasing single digit number. It is sexier to be associated with a hypothetical lithe skill player, but that does not explain why No. 2 and No. 6 have not received a single bid. The No.3 jersey has value because Taylor Martinez perspired in it. To any logical mind, it would appear Nebraska is directly profiting from Taylor Martinez’ likeness.
Universities pay students for services rendered. The earnest dweeb calling alumni at inconvenient times for donations receives $10 an hour. No one would resent a student on a financial aid or academic scholarship taking that job, even though the university was already awarding him free tuition, room and board and free reign of its facilities. Football players are working a fundraise as well, one that, at the biggest football schools, brings in tens of millions per season.
No one is suggesting egregious payments and kids driving around in Bentleys. The scholarship and benefits may be adequate payment for their time. But, the wanton “wink, wink” exploitation of their likenesses, legally valid or not, is unsavory, dishonest and wrong. Players should receive a modest share of the profits from where their likenesses are used, whether that’s distributed per semester or placed in a trust until they leave the university. It would be easy to orchestrate. It would not be financially crippling.
I have sympathy for young Gregg Doyel selling his plasma, but young Gregg Doyel would also have been pissed if the University was selling Gregg Doyel t-shirts or syndicating his student newspaper columns and he wasn’t seeing a cent from it.
[Photo via Getty]
* Made correction. Thought every jersey had a duplicate number. Forgot Nebraska had 158 players so there was a reason for that.