A.J. Green Case at Georgia Illustrates Hypocrisy of College Jersey Sales
Type in "A.J. Green jersey" on the official online University of Georgia retailer and you get 23 different product results.
It's plain as day that one man is making the Georgia No. 8 jersey a best-seller: the lanky wide receiver from Summerville, South Carolina. Are you a Georgia coed who feels the need for a pink version of your favorite wide receiver's jersey? You're in luck, you can snag one for just $55. A really hardcore fan who wants an exact replica jersey? You're in luck, you can buy one in black or red for the low, low price of $150. From jerseys for kids to Nike T-shirts, everyone, it would seem, is profiting off A.J. Green's jersey sales.
Except, you guessed it, A.J. Green.
Georgia's star wide receiver, who entered his junior year as a dark-horse Heisman candidate, has been suspended four games for doing the same thing that the University of Georgia does, namely, selling his jersey. All thanks to one of the most illegitimate rules in the NCAA rulebook: A university may sell a player's jersey so long as they don't put the player's name on the back of it. It's a joke rule without any real substance, an arbitrary line that enforces and subjugates the athlete's economic reality while allowing a $100 million corporation, Georgia athletics, to rake in all the profits.
Sure, Green violated the NCAA rule about selling his jersey, but he didn't do anything that the school doesn't do tens of thousands of times a year. What does it say for the NCAA's rules on amateurism when the school and the player are held to a completely different standard?
Put yourself in the student-athlete's shoes. He's sitting in a dorm room without extra money to hit the movie theater or McDonald's. Meanwhile, he's got an old jersey in his place -- a jersey, mind you, that he sees countless people on campus walking around in all day -- and someone is willing to give him $1,000 for that old jersey. Might you be tempted to sell that jersey? Hell, I would. And if you say you wouldn't, it's probably because you've never been in a position where you needed any money for anything.
But it's not just the university exploiting you for its own gain. It's everyone. Say Green is sitting around in his apartment and he happens to scan his name on eBay. Well, what do you know, that Georgia Bulldogs fan who seemed so happy when he signed that mini-helmet at fan appreciation day? It's for sale on eBay. See, a third party can sell his signature, someone who risks nothing other than a Sharpie stain on his index finger, but the player who gives that signature value, the one who runs routes early in the morning, the one who puts his body on the line for free for every snap, he's got no right to make a penny off of it.
That's because players like Green are bound by NFL rules to sit on college campuses until they've completed at least three years since finishing high school. So what if Green would have been a first-round pick last year after his sophomore season -- which he would have -- you're contractually obligated to risk everything for another year on campus. This entire situation must seem like a bad dream. You are the only person on the planet who can't make money off your talents.
And don't give me the talk about how he's guaranteed to eventually make money. Please, he's guaranteed nothing. If you don't believe me, ask former Alabama star Tyrone Prothro, one of the most dynamic playmakers in the SEC back in 2005. It all ended for Prothro on one fourth-down pass attempt against Florida. His entire career, finished. He never played another snap. His No. 4 jersey is now worn by a new wide receiver at Alabama: Marquis Maze.
So that money can be here today, gone tomorrow. Except for the institutions and individuals who are cashing checks based upon your name already. The hypocrisy is mind-numbing and ineffective. If you're a parent, how well do children respond to the instruction, "Do as a I say, not as I do?"
Not well, right? Green just did the exact same thing that the school he plays for did. Only now he's ineligible. Welcome to the NCAA's rule when it comes to jersey sales. The NCAA member institutions don't want the players selling jerseys because that's called competition. And the NCAA is running a straight monopoly. Try and make some money off your own name and you're no longer an amateur. Unless, of course, you're the NCAA, in which case your entire business model is predicated upon making money off amateurs.
If an individual tries to make a little spending money off his talent, it's called an improper benefit. Improper benefit? Please, you know what isn't an improper benefit? Rich parents who buy you an SUV as soon as you get your admissions letter to the University of Georgia. Many of the people shaking their fingers right now at Green have lived an entire life laden with improper benefits. Hell, it's the American way, take advantage of your good fortune and profit off those who aren't as fortunate.
So now Green has to miss four games for doing exactly the same thing his university does on a regular basis. In fact, the university's position is much worse. Green only sold one jersey. Wednesday afternoon, the University of Georgia was still selling 23 different A.J. Green jerseys in six different colors for men, women and children.
No matter which way you look at this mess, it's a dawg eat dawg world, and A.J. Green just got eaten.