Crime and punishment

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere

We're still two weeks away from the kickoff of the college football season, and I think everyone is already sick of hearing about Johnny Manziel.

I know I'm sick of writing about him, but it just seems like every week he's getting himself into a new mess more interesting than the last.

All of his controversies of the past, they didn't amount to a whole lot--just a bunch of people saying that he needed to slow down and take it easy.

He was just a 20-year-old college student trying to do what other 20-year-old college students do but with those actions out in the spotlight for everyone to see, he became a lightning rod for criticism.

However, him partying a little too hard for others' liking or sending discouraging late-night tweets are small potatoes compared to the firestorm that was set ablaze last week.

An NCAA investigation has ensued to look into allegations that claim that Manziel was paid for signing hundreds of autographed photos and other bits of sports memorabilia.

Two different people have come out and said that Manziel was paid. One broker that confirmed this says that he got a $7,500 cut.

If these allegations are proven to be true by the NCAA, Manziel will more than likely be ruled ineligible. How long he will remain ineligible is uncertain, but it very well could be for the entirety of this upcoming season.

This has not only put Texas A&M fans on the edge of the their seats, but it has opened the floor for more debate about student athletes and the wrath of the NCAA when it comes to money.

Johnny Football won't get any arguments from me on that regard. I think that over the years, the NCAA has repeatedly proven to be hypocrites that try to do anything and everything they can to turn a profit but destroy their student athletes if they dare to do the same.

I understand these athletes get a full scholarship, free room and board and plenty of advantages many other students aren't afforded. I realize that paying them may open up a big can of worms that could spawn many different problems and controversies.

I won't argue those points. What I will argue against is exploitation and how the NCAA takes away financial opportunities from these athletes.

If an art major at a college gets approached by someone who wants to sell and promote their art, it's a done deal. Their art is out for all of the world to see, and they get a big fat check. Nobody says a thing.

So, if Nike wants to endorse a popular athlete and create an ad campaign directed around them, why are they not allowed to do so? I don't care what the NCAA says, infringing on someone's right to make money is flat out wrong.

Jerseys are sold all over the country with these players' numbers on them. They don't get one penny from it.

The NCAA gets away with it because their names are not on the back. However, when someone buys a No. 2 jersey in College Station, they know they're representing Johnny Football.

Just last week, ESPN college basketball analyst and staunch NCAA detractor Jay Bilas put their hypocrisy on full-out display.

He showed via Twitter how you could go to the NCAA Shop website and type in a player's name--like Tajh Boyd, Jadeveon Clowney or Braxton Miller--and their jerseys appear.

However, the NCAA likes to claim that they're not selling you a "player's" jersey--just a jersey with a number on it. Needless to say, within hours of Bilas sending the tweets, the search feature was mysteriously disabled on the website.

And just a few days later, the NCAA declared that they will no longer sell player jerseys.

With all of that said, I still can't shed tears over Manziel's plight or hit the streets in protest. Yes, I think the NCAA is wrong. Yes, I hate the rule. Yes, I wish those pages could be ripped from the rule book and burned.

But at the end of the day, the rules are the rules. They exist and while they exist--as hypocritical as they may be--you have to follow them.

Manziel, along with every other student-athlete, knows you can't take money--not a cent.

Heck, you can't even take money for selling your own possessions. Ohio State players were suspended years ago for selling jerseys, championship rings and football pants that belonged to them.

If the allegations are true, Manziel knew all of that but still brazenly broke the rules to score some extra bucks.

I think it's safe to say that just like the "Honey Badger" persona led to the demise of Tyrann Mathieu, the "Johnny Football" persona has sunk Manziel.

We will have to wait and see if these allegations are true but if they are, don't feel bad for Manziel; feel bad for his teammates and the fans. He dug the hole; he has to lie in it.