Zion Williamson shouldn’t have to worry.
In case you missed it, Williamson, now one of the NBA’s brightest young stars, was named in a lawsuit against Adidas versus Brian Bowen, a former top college basketball recruit. The news was first reported by The Raleigh New & Observer and The athlete in this week.
Before Bowen could play a single college game, the NCAA stripped of his eligibility after the FBI began investigating a barrage of payments under the table in college basketball in recent years.
The FBI found that an Adidas employee and others planned to pay Bowen’s father to direct him to Louisville, a school that raises $ 16 million annually for carrying the sporting goods giant’s gear. Bowen, who has never played college basketball, now works in the NBA Development League.
What does this have to do with Williamson?
In response to inquiries from Bowen’s legal team seeking information about payments to college recruits, an Adidas attorney wrote in a lawsuit last month that the former head of the company’s grassroots basketball program “may be $ 3,000 a month to the Williamson family has transferred for an unspecified period of time. “
The newspapers also reveal that Adidas representatives distributed $ 5,474 to the junior circuit team that Williamson starred for and his stepfather was training.
Under NCAA rules, if it turned out that Williamson should like them to play for an Adidas-sponsored college team or sign with the shoe company once he turned pro, such payments would have banned Williamson for 2018 – 19 season at Duke, sponsored by Nike.
“It’s nothing new,” said Sonny Vaccaro when we called Williamson this week. “It’s always been like that.”
Vaccaro knows better than anyone. The shoe company’s former marketing tsar signed Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant on their first mammoth sneaker advertising deals and pioneered the industry’s sponsorship of teams and coaches. He turned against major college sports after seeing it grow into a billionaire giant, with everyone but the players getting richer. Then he helped push for that Lawsuit filed by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon against the NCAA, a case that spurred current calls for college sports reform.
“The players who make it work see that everyone around them is making tons of money,” added Vaccaro. “The coaches and sports directors with their huge contracts. But when players have tried to make their lives better financially, the NCAA has always stigmatized them. “
Note this isn’t the first time it has been Williamson accused of having reaped a godsend before putting on a ducal uniform allegations that his lawyers and the university have denied.
What is shocking about this latest news isn’t necessarily that it points again to the murky underworld of college sports. It is so that if the claims in the Adidas case are true and the relatively small amounts are used as a guide, Zion Williamson has got a job.
Vaccaro estimated that Williamson could have got at least $ 2.5 million worth of a shoe deal on the open market while he was still in high school – and likely for much more.
Just how much money was Williamson worth on Duke’s basketball program as he helped lead the Blue Devils to an ACC title?
“About $ 5 million,” said Professor David Berri, a sports economist at Southern Utah University who developed a formula that uses a college team’s earnings and a player’s estimated wins to measure economic impact.
That doesn’t explain the excitement Williamson brought to Duke.
Williamson arrived on campus that was already famous. Weeks in his season he had 2.2. Millions of social media followers, more than many NBA stars. His games became a must. Former President Barack Obama and hip-hop impresario Jay-Z participated in his nationally televised prime-time games.
Let’s just say Williamson gave Duke a marketing sizzle that was worth far more than the value of his scholarship.
As most of those who watch university sports closely know, change is in the air.
The Supreme Court will rule soon In a case that could pierce a hole in the NCAA cartel and open the lid, the organization is banking on the benefits its athletes can get from schools.
Several states have passed laws allegedly changing obsolete restrictions that prohibit gamers from making money through endorsements or, in today’s social media world, through sponsored posts.
The Congress has also taken note of it. There could be uniform rules that allow players to monetize their fame while pushing for more player rights.
But even if these changes occur, there will be rifts in the system as long as the NCAA continues to restrict the free enterprise market for its worker athletes. Shoe companies and agents, for example, will continue to attempt to bond with the biggest high school and college stars in football and basketball with cash and gifts.
You can’t stop that. Why try at all?
Why not admit the obvious? Major college sports, namely soccer and men’s basketball, are not amateurs at all.
The reform that will allow athletes to market themselves in college is a formidable start.
But why not bring the last bit of the industry to the public?
Why not let the schools compete for the best players by paying them? (Just limit the number of great athletes teams can bring in so Alabama doesn’t hoard the top 300 high school recruits.)
Why not allow the top high school players to deal with shoe companies and agents, and anyone they think can help them financially? No questions asked. No shame and slander.
Let there be light. And more light. And more.
The NCAA could make bogus claims that it is guarding the holy grail of amateurism.
Trainers and colleges don’t have to lie and say they don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.
Young athletes like Williamson wouldn’t have to face their names being pulled through legal proceedings to capitalize on their talent.