SBD/August 9, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

NCAA To Cease Sales Of Player-Related Memorabilia On Its E-Commerce Website

NCAA President Mark Emmert on Thursday said that the organization "will 'exit' the business of selling player and school related memorabilia and apparel" on its ShopNCAASports.com website, according to Dennis Dodd of CBSSPORTS.com. The site had come under fire for selling "jerseys identified by individual players" as well as the "autograph of a player who was a central figure" in an NCAA case in former USC RB Reggie Bush. The shop also was offering videos of a Penn State game "that had been vacated by the association in the Sandusky scandal." Emmert during a conference call with the media said, "I don't believe we should have been in that business. I don't think that's appropriate for us and we're going to exit it." He added that "no revenue was realized from the portion of the website that sold player jerseys." Emmert: "We certainly recognize why that could be seen as hypocritical. ... It's not something core to what the NCAA is about. We probably never should have been in that business." The conference call was "presented as an update" after the NCAA BOD's Thursday meeting in Indianapolis." However, most of the questions "had to do with players' rights to their likeness, the website and Emmert's job security" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/8). NCAA Exec VP/Championships & Alliances Mark Lewis said, "Moving forward, the NCAA online shop will no longer offer college and university merchandise. In the coming days, the store's website will be shut down temporarily and reopen in a few weeks as a marketplace for NCAA championship merchandise only." Emmert said that the shop would "continue to offer NCAA-related merchandise." The site was "copyrighted by Fanatics" (ESPN.com, 8/8).

LATEST MOVE BY THE NCAA: In N.Y., Steve Eder notes the move "came less than a month after the NCAA said it would not renew its contract" with EA, which "makes the college football video game series that bears the organization’s name." The NCAA also is "facing fresh questions about why its star players are not allowed to be compensated for such things as signing autographs." Sources said that the moves "appear to be motivated by mitigating legal threats as the NCAA faces a serious challenge as a result of a lawsuit filed by the former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/9).

DAMAGE CONTROL: In L.A., Chris Dufresne writes shutting down the shop "was a brilliant public relations pivot by Emmert." It "just didn't look good selling trinkets under the NCAA umbrella in the week in which it was learned the organization is investigating whether Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel exchanged his autograph for cash" (L.A. TIMES, 8/9). In Houston, Randy Harvey wrote under the header, "NCAA Makes A Right Move In Wake Of Manziel Controversy" (CHRON.com, 8/8). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Eisenberg wrote, "The abrupt policy change was probably Emmert's attempt at damage control." The NCAA "certainly doesn't need more negative press at a time when its amateurism model is under fire from all corners." Emmert's statements were "significant because they represented one of the few times the NCAA president has publicly acknowledged the hypocrisy of one of his organization's rules." Eisenberg: "Credit Emmert for his honesty" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/8). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "I'm going to give them credit for having the common sense to listen to a very good report and react to it immediately." Kornheiser added that the NCAA "can't be selling autographed Reggie Bush pictures after you stripped him of the Heisman!" But ESPN's Michael Wilbon does not credit the NCAA, noting Bilas "forced them out." Wilbon: "Institutionally, they're liars and hypocrites" ("PTI," ESPN, 8/8). In Orlando, Matt Murschel notes the move is "just the latest in a long line of calamities that have followed the NCAA in recent months, including gaffes during investigations of UCLA and Miami programs" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/9). SPORTING NEWS' Matt Hayes wrote under the header, "NCAA's Latest Move: Spineless, Embarrassing, Clueless" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/8).
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