Illegal gear displays likeness of Michael Porter Jr. violating NCAA rules

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COLUMBIA - Mizzou basketball player Michael Porter Jr. may be on the bench this season but that hasn’t kept him out of the spotlight off the court and now -- online.

Third-party retailers have been illegally selling sweatshirts, t-shirts and iPhone cases that depict the likeness of Michael Porter Jr. - which violates National Collegiate Athletic Association rule 12.5.2.2.

Sites like Redbubble and eBay are currently advertising the apparel - ranging from $19.50 for a tank and up to $45 for a hoodie. Buyers can even get express shipping despite the fact it’s totally illegal.

Mizzou Athletics abides the NCAA’s strict policy which bans “amateur” student athletes from using their image for commercial profit. Mizzou basketball currently doesn’t sell jerseys with the last name of players, only the athlete’s generic number.

Executive Associate Athletics Director Nick Joos said when fraud retailers try to sell Mizzou gear depicting athletes, the NCAA requires Mizzou Athletic’s compliance office to get involved. The department is required to reach out to the seller to shut them down.

“I’ve seen this with high visible student athletes at numerous institutions,” said Joos. “At lot of times the people that are doing it don’t know that they can’t.”

Joos said many times these retailers aren’t intentionally being “spiteful” but “don’t know the rules or how it could impact somebody’s eligibility.”

Joos would not speak about the Michael Porter Jr. apparel currently online, but said players will not be penalized for third-party retailers if they have no involvement.

“The only time they would get in trouble is if they’re actively out there selling things,” said Joos. “You can’t be an athlete and vendor.”

However the issue of compensation for athletes remains as unfinished business for collegiate sports nationwide.

MU law professor Sandy Davidson weighed in on the legal history of compensation for athletes. The 2015 Ninth Circuit court ruling of O’Bannon v. NCAA left many “unanswered questions” for the college sports industry according to Davidson.  

The NCAA is subject to antitrust laws, meaning it has limits on what it can control for student athletes.

“Travel and personal incidentals can be covered,” she said. However, “cash sums untethered to educational expenses” such as gear or associated with the likeness of a student athlete can be banned.

Joos said all recruited basketball players have fully-paid academic scholarships and can receive up to $5,600 in a yearly personal stipend.

In total, Mizzou Athletics earned more than $97 million in revenue in the 2015-2016 season, according to USA Today.

The Supreme Court rejected to hear the O'Bannon v. NCAA case in 2016 but may bring up the issue down the line.

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