Several college basketball players participating in the men’s NCAA tournament joined a protest on social media against the NCAA as its signature event was set to begin, criticizing college sports’ governing body for not allowing athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses.
“I am #NotNCAAProperty.”
The hashtag #NotNCAAProperty is being used “to underscore their concern that the NCAA too often treats college athletes like dollar signs rather than people,” Ramogi Huma, executive director of the advocacy group the National College Players Association, said in a statement announcing the protest.
The statement called for athletes to obtain representation and receive compensation by July 1; meetings with NCAA President Mark Emmert and with members of President Biden’s administration to encourage legislation to give college athletes “physical, academic, and financial protections”; and urged the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the plaintiff in an upcoming case regarding NCAA rules on athletes compensation.
Baker, Jordan Bohannon of Iowa and Isaiah Livers of Michigan are the leading player representatives of the protest. According to the National College Players Association statement, the three players first met with Huma via Zoom call over the summer to discuss their concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. They stayed in touch, the statement continued, and on Tuesday held another meeting with players from a dozen other tournament teams to discuss launching the protest.
The hashtag quickly gained steam on Wednesday, with Baker’s teammate Ron Harper Jr. agreeing. Alabama’s Jahvon Quinerly tweeted his experience with NCAA restrictions. Livers, Bohannon, Virginia Tech’s Wabissa Bede and Cordell Pemsl, and Wichita State’s Dexter Dennis were other players who joined the conversation.
“Though I am completely focused on competing with my teammates going forward, I must say since it is a topic of discussion, the NCAA has not allowed me or my brothers to profit off our GLOBAL ‘JellyFam’ movement that took social media by storm years ago,” Quinerly tweeted. “This is a movement that has the potential to not only put ourselves in better positions financially but our families as well. Meanwhile, people were able to make their own profits off our movement since we could do nothing with it in order to keep our NCAA eligibility alive. #NotNCAAproperty”
Harper told reporters Wednesday that he believes the issue may have reached a turning point after a year in which the 2020 tournament was canceled, the 2020-21 season halted at times by the coronavirus and NCAA tournament participants are in what the NCAA refers to as a “controlled environment” in Indianapolis.
“This group of players that play college basketball right now are very active in the fight for our name, image, and likeness to be passed,” Harper said. “This is a group of college kids that has sacrificed more than anybody ever has when it comes to playing college basketball. We’ve been isolated from friends, family, girlfriends, etc., for the whole year. Hopefully, we’re at a turning point where the NCAA can look at us and pass the name, image, and likeness laws that we should rightfully receive.”
Baker disputed a tweet by one reporter that players should be “grateful” for “what you DO have” after the coronavirus pandemic forced cancellation of last year’s tournament.
“Think you can definitely be grateful to play this game while also understanding there’s more that should be on the table,” Baker responded. “Players ISOLATED entire year to help make this tournament happen. NCAA: rewarded w/$900 million. Players: rewarded w/free deodorant and small boxed meals.”
A Twitter user offered to bring players food and Baker quickly pointed out the problem with that.
“Nah man that’s what the NCAA would call a violation you giving me free food because of my name is against NCAA rules,” he tweeted. “My name image and likeness belongs to them. But any Rutgers kids on full academic scholarship with names not owned by NCAA can surely get some though!”
Baker and Harper had the support of their coach, Steve Pikiell, who told reporters that times are changing.
“We’re a players program,” Pikiell said (via 247 Sports). “They have platforms now to speak out, and that’s great. I remember being a student-athlete myself, and we had a lot of opinions. We just didn’t have social media to share it. They have a voice, and we have great kids. They want change too. There’s a lot in this world that needs to be changed.”
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