Friday, January 29, 2016

What is the NCAA's stance regarding freedom of speech for student athletes?

News from Iowa is that @RealDonaldTrump was "endorsed" by Iowa football and wrestling student athletes.  Regardless of your political affiliation or views, it prompts the question - "What is the NCAA's stance regarding freedom of speech for student athletes?"

Iowa Director of Athletics Gary Barta issued a statement saying that no NCAA rules were violated by the student-athlete attendance at the rally and the presentation of a "non-official" Iowa jersey to Trump.

NCAA rules regarding the issue of endorsement can be found in this June 2014 document.  The language regarding speech is pretty clear -  "Advocacy of viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance (e.g., religious beliefs, political beliefs)" is labeled as impermissible for student athletes.

Yet, no concern over NCAA rules was raised a couple of months ago when the Missouri football team rallied and threatened to boycott their game against Brigham Young University.  In fact the opposite occurred, athletic administrators widely lauded student-athlete activism and were supportive of athletes expressing their freedom of speech.  And recent NCAA governance changes have provided student athletes with a greater voice than ever in the NCAA legislative process.

Regardless of your views regarding either the presidential primaries or the protests in Missouri, it appears evident that student athletes are exercising their voices, and their opinions clearly have weight.

Whether coaches and administrators are truly comfortable with social and political activism, regardless of viewpoint, remains to be seen.  But it raises the question, "Does the NCAA have any standing to prevent student athletes from voicing their opinions regarding a political person or social issue?"   And if NCAA somehow has this ability, on what basis will decisions be made about which topics or forms of free speech are permissible and which are not?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

NCAA Baseball agent rule change finally arrives six years after Andrew Oliver case

The NCAA has changed its stance regarding prospective student athletes using agents in their negotiation with Major League Baseball teams and will now allow agents to actively represent their client's interests.  

The topic of agents and specifically the case of Andrew Oliver was first chronicled in March of 2009 by UltimateSportsInsider.com and has been among the most read series on this website.

Understanding the history and how we've arrived at this change is important. Six years ago, the NCAA aggressively fought Andrew Oliver and his attorney Rick Johnson.  The NCAA lost court battles and faced a contempt of court hearing before ultimately settling out of court for $750,000 over its conduct and denial of Oliver's legal rights.

Six long years later, the resistance is gone with the NCAA voting 72-2 in favor of allowing representation - chipping away another piece of the amateurism facade.

There is no doubt that this erosion will continue.  Its impossible to effectively argue that legal representation for one group of students should be permitted while preventing such representation for others.  Additional movement on the issue of legal representation is likely just another lawsuit or NCAA Legislative cycle away from further changes (if the Association wants to be proactive.)  

Oliver @drewoliver27 has 31 career innings pitched in Major League Baseball.