LaVar Ball May Kill NCAA Amateur Status With His Shoe
While LaVar Ball has made a ton of headlines over selling $495 ZO2 shoes, getting less than 300 orders on Day 1 of their release, his biggest contribution may be at taking down the NCAA. It caused a major reaction when released with good reason.
Ball has two more children left who are headed to the UCLA, and that matters, because of the new equipment agreement that Under Armour just signed with the Bruins athletic department. A $280 million dollar question, the biggest in NCAA history.
It comes down to a question: Does Ball have the right to market his own product with his co-owner children (LiAngelo & LaMelo) and retain their amateur status?
Ball’s challenge may also alter what amateur status is. Just because you get priority registration, free equipment and a scholarship may not eliminate your cut of a $280 million equipment deal with the school sold specifically by marketing your brand, without paying you.
If the NCAA says no, then Ball has the choice of challenging the NCAA through the courts. And Ball could win, specifically by citing the Under Armour agreement.
There is a stark difference between broadcasting rights and merchandise rights. One focused on a building, where a game is played, for a certain unit of time. But the other, that being merchandise rights, takes the likeness of the player into account. Even if they don’t endorse the product, they are wearing it. That’s the transition point for the entire conversation.
Constant NCAA critic Jay Bilas doesn’t have an issue with the Ball game plan either.
UCLA wouldn’t be stopping Ball’s children from wearing whatever shoes they like had the Under Armour agreement not been established. And given the unique situation involved, UCLA would have to argue that their agreement supersedes the Ball’s right to not be in compliance with the uniform standards of the basketball team. And that’s where the argument gets murky: Essentially, UCLA Athletics is promising that their student-athletes will be a billboard of a company endorsement, despite the “amateur status” bestowed on the student-athlete themselves.
This isn’t that different than the EA Sports video game issue a couple of years ago. Where the athletic departments were specifically selling roster naming rights to video game companies, which were using those rosters in their games as identifiable players.
The most famous test case for this was Michael Jordan’s son, Marcus, who refused to wear Adidas equipment while playing at the University of Central Florida. Adidas pulled from the deal, and UCF became a Nike school.
And what makes LaVar Ball’s case unique is that he’s not signing an agreement with a rival company. Ball is the rival company, therefore allowing his children to wear that brand specifically because its their brand, no one elses. No other student-athlete is in a similar situation in the NCAA, nor has ever been, which creates a problematic issue with for UCLA and the NCAA as a whole.
LaVar Ball has proven to be a lot of things, but he doesn’t yield to pressure. Just look at the shoe companies which balked at his Big Baller Brand, yet watched as he had a tsunami of media coverage after the ZO2 release. Whether the ZO2 shoe sells well isn’t the point, its whether Ball and his children can credibly argue that they have the right to profit off of the names of the Ball children during their stay at UCLA, or whether Under Armour and UCLA hold those rights exclusively.
What is the argument here for UCLA? That they can only decide who profits off of the amateur status of the student-athlete? That argument wouldn’t have been challenged had a parent not formed their own company along with their children, moving their own shoe brand.
Can an amateur student-athlete be forced into wearing equipment that is in direct competition with their own brand? This may be a bigger issue than LaVar Ball or ZO2, and a can of worms that UCLA Athletics and the NCAA as a whole may have just opened.