Let me begin with a brief disclaimer. The purpose of this post is NOT to argue student athletes should get paid. Despite my very strong belief that they should, we live in a world where they don’t. That is the state of nature, which I will accept. However, I will not accept the fact that some companies still aim to profit off of student-athletes.
Last Friday night during the homecoming parade, I stopped into a store downtown to momentarily defrost my toes. To my surprise, the first display I saw when I walked into the store read “Number 26 is pretty good,” with hats, buttons, and t-shirts beneath it. All bearing the number 26. The number of our beloved running back Saquon Barkley.
At first, you might not think anything of it. It seems harmless enough. You might even be inclined to purchase one of the products to show your support for the Heisman hopeful, and I honestly wouldn’t blame you. The problem, however, is that that products like these allow companies to profit off of student-athletes, which is in my opinion immoral, if technically not illegal.
NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206 states that, “Items that include an individual student-athlete’s name, picture or likeness (e.g., name on jersey, name or likeness on a bobblehead doll)… may not be sold.” Of course, this applies to products officially licensed by the university, so it does not have much control over third-party companies that choose to use a player’s likeness on a product regardless.
I recognize that a counterargument might arise in this case, where whatever company responsible for this merchandise is not at fault because they’re only using the number. There was no reference to Saquon using his name or likeness.
I would argue at a university where names are not written on the backs of jerseys, the number is a player’s likeness. Hence, why Penn State, and other top programs, opted to stop selling officially licensed jerseys with current player’s numbers in 2016.
No, these are not officially licensed products. And sure, there is a chance that this company is selling this merchandise to people who are just really big fans of the number 26 for reasons that have nothing to do with Saquon Barkley. But come on. We all know that’s bullshit. Someone is making money by marketing a Penn State student-athlete.
At the end of the day, merchandise like this exists. There is nothing I can do to put a stop to it other than plea with you, the consumer. So here goes nothing.
Please, don’t buy products like this. Third-party companies will continue to profit off of college athletes as long as people continue to pay for this kind of merchandise, so don’t. Spend your hard-earned money on other officially licensed gear to support the football program or save up to buy Saquon’s jersey when he is finally in the NFL.
Don’t give your dollar to anyone peddling a student-athlete’s likeness.