Not NCAA Property: Players push for reform on social media

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Michigan forward Isaiah Livers twirls the net after the team won the Big Ten title against Michigan State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Several prominent players at the March Madness basketball tournament took aim at the NCAA on social media Wednesday, demanding changes to how they are allowed to be compensated in the latest organized display of power by college athletes.

Isaiah Livers of Michigan, Geo Baker of Rutgers and Jordan Bohannon of Iowa were among those pushing for NCAA reforms with the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty. The athletes, who are staying at hotels a short walk from NCAA headquarters in downtown Indy, are urging the association to allow them to earn money for things like sponsorship deals, online endorsement and personal appearances.

“The NCAA OWNS my name image and likeness,” Baker tweeted. “Someone on music scholarship can profit from an album. Someone on academic scholarship can have a tutor service. For ppl who say “an athletic scholarship is enough.” Anything less than equal rights is never enough. I am #NotNCAAProperty"

The tweets were posted on the eve of the tournament. Because of the pandemic the event is being played entirely in Indiana with all 68 teams staying in what the NCAA describes as a “controlled environment.” Players are largely limited to their hotels, practices and games. The tournament generates nearly $900 million in revenue for schools and conferences from the NCAA's media rights deal with CBS and Turner Sports to broadcast the games.

“It's become clear to even the biggest NCAA apologist that we are playing this tournament primarily to deliver content to media rights partners,” said ESPN's Jay Bilas, a former Duke player. “That's what this season was about."

The NCAA is in the process of trying to change its longstanding rules to allow athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses. But those efforts have bogged down since the start of 2021.

The NCAA was scheduled to vote on NIL legislation in January, but that was delayed after a letter from the Justice Department warned the proposed changes could violate antitrust laws. Now the DOJ is backing plaintiffs against the NCAA in a case that will be heard by the Supreme Court, further complicating the situation.

Earlier this week, NCAA President Mark Emmert told The Associated Press he was frustrated by the delay in NIL reform and hoped rules would be in place for the start of the next fall semester as was originally intended.