The National Collegiate Athletic Association got slammed – perhaps even more aggressively than usual – online this week after the ESPN men’s basketball commentator Jay Bilas pointed out an apparent hypocrisy: The NCAA staunchly prohibits athletes from profiting off their own images, but the association was selling jerseys on its ShopNCAASports.com website that seemed to do just that. While the jersey wouldn’t include a name, if a shopper searched for “Johnny Manziel” – the 19-year-old Heisman Trophy winner who is now under NCAA investigation for selling autographed photos – up popped jerseys featuring the Texas A&M University quarterback’s number and team colors.
The NCAA responded quickly, removing the search bar but staying silent when people noticed. Its officials couldn’t escape the questions during an NCAA Executive Committee press call Thursday, though, where NCAA President Mark Emmert said the association would no longer sell university jerseys or memorabilia. Adding that he didn’t know how the practice began and that it was “a mistake,” Emmert noted that the website is an aggregator for other retailers and that the NCAA did not profit off the sales. Nonetheless, the NCAA is “exiting” the business.
“I can certainly understand how people could see that as hypocritical,” Emmert said of the sales.
Officials noted that the website will still sell NCAA-branded apparel.