Never accuse the General Assembly of ignoring the issues that matter to Georgians. Representative Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), my former boss and a Damn Good Dawg, has proposed legislation that would create civil and potentially criminal penalties for those who entice student-athletes to violate their scholarships.
Background: Todd Gurley is UGA’s star running back, a Heisman trophy candidate, and the most loved man in Athens. He was suspended from last Saturday’s Missouri game when news broke that he allegedly sold signed merchandise for $400 or more, a violation of NCAA rules. The story was leaked by merchandise dealer Bryan Allen (a “rat”, according to the descriptions Representative Fleming has heard) after shopping around for a sports journalism outlet willing to print such unmentionables. Immediately after the news broke, a thunderstorm set on Athens as the personal became meteorological.
To give a taste of the mood among Bulldog fans, here’s a painting I found on the streets of downtown Athens.
It now hangs in my living room.
In 2003, the General Assembly passed a law allowing universities to seek damages from individuals who “engages in any activity concerning student-athletes that results in the institution being penalized…” inspired by a similar incident at the University of Alabama. It’s not yet clear if that law could be used against Mr. Allen or how Representative Fleming’s law would strengthen it. It is clear that some folks are mighty mad at Bryan Allen.
Feel free to call the issue silly or grandstanding, if you must, but remember that we’re talking about a multi-billion dollar industry with more than a few customers in this state. More egregious than Bryan Allen’s actions are the antiquated NCAA rules, which profits from a majority black work force that is unpaid for their remarkable (and remarkably dangerous) labor. The federal courts have already ruled that college football players can be paid for their likeness and some are calling for UGA to make the Gurley suspension a landmark case. That would be the highest tribute to a spectacular player.