Category Archives: Political Wankery

Congressional revenge is a dish best served cold.

Rep. Mark Walker is chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest Republican caucus in the House.  He hails from North Carolina, so this shouldn’t surprise you in the least.

… A three-sport letterman at Trinity Baptist College in Jacksonville, Fla., Walker and his staff have been studying the issue and considering legislative solutions since 2016 — the same year the NCAA, the ACC and the NBA moved sporting events out of North Carolina due to the passage of House Bill 2. At the time, Walker criticized the NCAA as “elitists who are attempting to extort and embarrass North Carolina for defending its citizens.”

What issue, you may ask?  Why, what else would hurt like a pocketbook issue?

The chairman of a powerful group of Republicans in the U.S. House called on the NCAA to allow college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness, joining a growing chorus of influential people advocating for major change to the way colleges treat student-athletes and threatening legislation if the NCAA does not make changes quickly.

Rep. Mark Walker, from Greensboro, wrote that current NCAA rules regarding the name, image and likeness of college athletes “strips them of their identity and sovereignty over their public image.”

“As with every other freedom, they don’t go away. They are just transferred to empower someone else. In this case, those publicity rights and the large wealth created by them are held tight by school athletic departments, sports conference board rooms and NCAA administrators,” Walker wrote in an opinion article for The News & Observer.

Now, before you go ahead and hail the man as Jeffrey Kessler’s blood brother, note that “Walker is not in favor of paying players, his spokesman said.”  Freedom only goes so far.

This is more along the lines of “Nice little amateurism racket you got going there, NCAA.  Shame if anything were to happen to it.”  Which is what you risk when you stick your snout where it’s not wanted.

Bottom line, this is more light than heat.  But it’s also a good indication that seeking an antitrust exemption in Congress is likely to face choppier waters than the schools would prefer.



Filed under Political Wankery, The NCAA

Waiting for a shoe to drop

I mentioned in the podcast I did yesterday with Tony that events on the ground, such as antitrust litigation threats, are likely to make the NCAA and its member institutions seek an antitrust exemption from Washington for its sports programs.  It is unlikely that such would be given without a quid pro quo and that’s where things get dicey.  The low hanging fruit for Congress is the non-profit tax exemption the schools and the NCAA currently possess.  If you think about it, that’s another significant advantage collegiate sports enjoy over the pros.

There are a few ways in which the Big Ten Conference is a misnomer. For one thing, the athletic conference founded in 1897 and comprised of corn-fed flagship Midwestern universities, now has 14 members. (In recent years, it has added decidedly non-Midwestern members like Rutgers and the University of Maryland.) Second, in the GuideStar rankings of nonprofits, the Big Ten appears as a “human services” organization alongside the American Red Cross and Feeding America. (The Big Ten is No. 7 in the Slate 90 human services section.)

Like the NCAA under which it is organized, the conference qualifies as a charitable organization because, in the words of the IRS, it “fosters national or international amateur sports competition.” Indeed, in this “human services” sector, five of the top 10 are organizations that deal with college sports, including the NCAA itself. Like the ten in Big Ten, amateur is an almighty stretch here. The Big Ten doesn’t compete with after-work intramural leagues. As in other sectors like health care and financial services, tax-advantaged nonprofits like the Big Ten compete directly against avowedly for-profit professional sports leagues for attention, revenue, and above all, splashy television deals.

In 2017, the Big Ten Conference completed the most lucrative media deal in the history of college athletics: ESPN, Fox, and CBS agreed to pay the Big Ten $2.46 billion over six years for the rights to broadcast its football and basketball games. By comparison, NBC’s 10-year agreement with the NHL—one of America’s big four professional sports leagues—was worth less than $2 billion.

What gives? The NCAA is the only viable pipeline to both the NFL and NBA, and so the talent and quality of play in college football and college basketball is almost at the level of the pros. In effect, these are the minor leagues. That, combined with the built-in tribal allegiance college fans have with their teams, makes for stratospheric TV ratings. More than 28 million people watched this year’s national football championship between Alabama and Georgia. That’s better than the average viewership numbers the NFL pulled during its first two weeks of playoff games. (When it comes to baseball and hockey, two sports that have extensive professional minor leagues, the money and attention associated with the college version is de minimis.)

In terms of success, revenue, and popularity, the Big Ten is, along with the SEC, the star upon which the world of collegiate sports revolves. And it has a remarkable business model. It doesn’t build or maintain stadiums. And it certainly doesn’t recruit and pay the star athletes.

It’s a pretty sweet deal for the NCAA and its associated conferences, who generate Fortune 500–type revenues from something produced, gratis, by unpaid amateurs. Not paying taxes is a nice cherry on top of that lucrative sundae…

Congress has sniffed around this question before.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that if the NCAA goes all out on the antitrust front, it’ll be an issue again (if, for no other reason than the pros have their lobbyists, too, and will no doubt be pushing their agendas).  There’s no telling where it goes, of course, but from here, it’s got all the warning signs of be careful what you ask for.  Of course, if you’re desperate after Jeffrey Kessler kicks your ass, your options are limited.  I’d think that end game might make for another persuasive reason to settle, but I’m not Donald Remy.


Filed under Political Wankery, See You In Court, The NCAA

“They didn’t invite you. Trump invites you.”

(Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

You may have heard that the Alabama football team was honored yesterday for winning the national championship.  It was a meeting of two men at the peak of their respective powers.

To no one’s surprise, one of those men spoke movingly about his role in the event…

“It was truly a win for the ages,” Trump said. “I don’t know if you know, but I was there.”

… and one man worked while he was there.

All in all, just another day at the White House.


Filed under Nick Saban Rules, Political Wankery

SEC 1, Guns 0

The Second Amendment ain’t played ‘Bama, PAWWWLLL.



Filed under Political Wankery, SEC Football

Today’s money round-up

Four stories worth your consideration:

  • If you’re seriously concerned about where colleges will find the money to pay student-athletes if that dark day ever comes, let me suggest that such payment would be a better use of money than Michigan State spending half-a-million large on a PR firm to track social media on people who are upset with the school over the Larry Nassar scandal.  You really need to spend big bucks to confirm that somebody suing you doesn’t like you?  Hell, I’d have taken that gig for half price.
  • From California “In the midst of March Madness, Assemblymember Chris Holden announced introduction of his legislation, Assembly Bill 2747, the College Athletes’ Civil Rights Act of 2018, to protect to college athletes from harmful policies by the National College Athletics Association (NCAA). The legislation would allow college athletes to self-organize, create the possibility of the “Olympic Model” for college athletes such as commercial sponsorship, and help protect college athletes from abuses by college coaches, trainers, and other athletic staff.  If adopted, the legislation would be the first law in the country to regulate the NCAA.”
  • It looks like Jeffrey Kessler’s case is going to trial.  This doesn’t sound promising for the NCAA:  “In a 36-page opinion, Wilken did not give either side total victory. However, she rejected several of the NCAA’s critical contentions and set the stage for the plaintiffs to seek a new system that would apply to Division I men’s and women’s basketball players and to football players at Football Bowl Subdivision schools.”  Read the whole thing and remember a couple of key points.  One, Wilken has already ruled and been affirmed on appeal that the NCAA violated antitrust law.  Two, Kessler isn’t asking for money damages as relief, just asking for the restrictions set in place by the NCAA to be removed.  And this is where it seems to get particularly chilling for the NCAA’s chances:  “Under antitrust law, these types of restraints can exist if a defendant can show that the limits have certain benefits. In Wednesday’s ruling, Wilken said the NCAA produced “no evidence” to support six justifications it had offered in these cases, and she rejected the evidence they offered for a seventh.”
  • Everybody’s cashing in on Loyola-Chicago’s run to the Final Four, except, of course, the players, none of whom are expected to play in the NBA.


Filed under General Idiocy, Political Wankery, See You In Court, The NCAA

Today, in stick to sports

Ole Miss basketball may suck, but at least ‘Murica, bitchez.

With an attitude like that, he can probably miss the next three or four NCAA tourneys and still avoid the hot seat.  And when that wears thin (“hey, there are plenty of coaches out there who won’t recruit kneeling players, when’s he gonna win?”), he can start carrying on the sideline to bolster fan support for a few more.

Really, it’s kind of brilliant when you think about it.


UPDATE:  I’m not seeing anything resembling a wink here.

Davis placed an emphasis on the national anthem at Middle Tennessee State.

“The pride he took every time we got a letter from an opposing fan because our guys stand at attention during the national anthem and they all hold their hand over their heart. That’s a very big thing with Coach Davis,” MTSU athletic director Chris Massaro, told the Clarion Ledger Friday. “Typically, when we go from arena to arena a fan would notice that and they would send either him or me a note, a letter or email. We took great pride in that. That’s kind of one of the things I’ll always remember him by … how much pride he took into that.

“It’s a small thing in some ways but it’s a huge thing to a lot of people, to him and to our program. That’s one of the things we’ll see as we continue forward. That’s going to be one of the legacies he’ll leave.”

Davis’ statement drew a sizeable cheer from those in attendance Monday at The Pavilion.

Sizeable cheer from fans?  Mission accomplished!   Although I wait to see how his policy meshes with this:

Per an athletic department administrator, Ole Miss student-athletes, in all sports, have been “educated about the importance of freedom of expression, and that won’t change.”

Something’s gotta give.  Hopefully that won’t be the Constitution.


Filed under Political Wankery

Shooting match

Greg Sankey isn’t happy, people.

Greg Sankey made the SEC’s official position on a potential new Mississippi gun law very clear on Wednesday.

According to a letter Sankey wrote to the leadership of Mississippi State and Ole Miss on Wednesday, league opponents likely “will decline opportunities” to play at each school  if proposed gun legislation turns into law for the state of Mississippi.

More specifically,

Given the intense atmosphere surrounding athletic events, adding weapons increases meaningful safety concerns and is expected to negatively impact the intercollegiate athletics programs at your universities in several ways. If HB 1083 is adopted to permit weapons in college sports venues, it is likely that competitors will decline opportunities to play in Oxford and Starkville, game officials will decline assignments, personal safety concerns will be used against Mississippi’s universities during the recruiting process and fan attendance will be negatively impacted. When similar laws have been introduced in the past, the SEC office has received clear statements of concern from our member universities due to safety concerns associated with the passage of such laws intended to allow weapons at our athletic events and sports venues.

You may think that means the SEC is anti-Second Amendment.  You’d be wrong.  Sankey’s not making a political statement.  Sankey’s anti-liability.  He’s making the only kind of statement college sports administrators make seriously.  He doesn’t want his league getting sued by a shooting victim.

Arkansas backed down in the face of similar pressure.  It’ll be interesting to see if the Mississippi legislature does, too.  It’ll be even more interesting if they don’t.


Filed under Political Wankery, SEC Football