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Blog: Former UGA and NFL players weigh in on O’Bannon case

Former Georgia football player Matt Stinchcomb, appearing Monday at a news conference to promote the `Countdown to Kickoff’ charity event July 13 in Athens, didn’t dance around where he stood in the lawsuit being heard in a U.S. District Court in California against the NCAA.


“What we should just do is say, `I don’t know. That’s very complicated,” Stinchcomb, joined by brother Jon Stinchcomb and David Greene, both also former Georgia players, said after talk of the Ed O’Bannon case began to dominate the discussion.

After talking about `Countdown,’ the players shared sometimes passionate feelings about whether college athletes should get a piece of the pie in college athletics.

“I know when I signed a college scholarship it was to play football at a university. I was going to be afforded room and board and the cost of tuition and books. That’s exactly what I got,” said Matt Stinchcomb, a two-time Academic All-American offensive lineman who was a first round draft pick of the Raiders in 1999. “What I think we’re seeing now is it’s going beyond some of that. There might be language in the scholarship, letter of intent or what have you that says that they can do that, but I don’t think that was implied in the contract. I don’t know if any 18-year old even after having it explained to them would fully grasp what it is they’re warranting or granting to the NCAA to use their likeness as individuals if in fact that’s what’s been going on.”

Former UCLA basketball player O’Bannon’s lawsuit is challenging the NCAA ban on compensation for athletes. The judge is deciding whether the antitrust lawsuit will become a class action suit for former and current college athletes. At stake is potentially billions of dollars in damages.

The players spoke in the same room where football coach Mark Richt address the media after practices. The georgiadogs.com URL was draped behind them.

Greene addressed all of those No. 14 jerseys that were sold when he was quarterback for Georgia from 2001-04, which he did not get a cut.

“The game has evolved over time and the business behind the game has evolved as well,” Greene said. “I don’t know if there were a whole lot of Charley Trippi jerseys being sold (in the 1940s) even though he was the biggest stud on campus at the time.”

Georgia’s official athletic website is currently auctioning off team-issued football jerseys including the numbers of Todd Gurley (3), John Jenkins (6), Tavarres King (12), Bacarri Rambo (18), Sanders Commings (19) and Cornelius Washington (83).

“It’s such a gray area whenever you are talking about college athletics because you’re talking about amateur sports, but there’s a huge billion dollar business around it as well,” Greene said. “You can consider college football as an amateur sport, which it is. Guys aren’t getting paid to play. At the same time, there’s a big business around it and there’s a lot of pressure, too. You can’t tell me there’s not a lot of pressure on these kids even though they’re not getting paid to play. There’s a lot of pressure on these kids to perform.”

Greene said he doesn’t know the answer if college players should get paid while in school.

“I don’t think if kids are out here driving around in Bentleys and that kind of thing. That’s for the NFL” he said. “Like Matt said if they are singling out certain guys that the university if making money off of, it’s something to consider. Clearly, whether it’s in video games. You look at NCAA (football video game), the characters of the guys, they’re similar to the actual player. They want you to single out just the university, it’s just about Georgia, but the way they are getting compensated, the universities, it’s sometimes directly off the player. Look how many people are walking around in 11 jerseys now.”

Said Jon Stinchomb, who retired after eight years in the NFL: “It’s tricky because from a fans’ perspective it’s balancing, `Oh, all these players are greedy. They see an opportunity when they should appreciate the opportunity to play and represent your school and enjoy a game at a collegiate level.’ And we do. That’s the awesome side of football. I don’t think any player would ever leverage that, but you have to separate the two. Is it greed or is it somewhat being taken advantage of on an individual level?”
College football was the springboard for the Stinchcombs and Green to reach the NFL.

Greene was on a roster for three seasons.

“These guys both got to play for eight years and that’s not the norm,” said Greene, pointing his thumbs at the Stinchcombs seated next to him.

Jon Stinchcomb called himself a “gamer.” He likes to play video games where he can be a specific player on a specific team.
When he was in the NFL, the NFLPA made sure he got a cut for NFL players’ likenesses being in games like “Madden.”

He said he wanted “business to be booming and to get it down to whether or not I wore a black wrist band on this left arm and not the right. I want it to be as specific as possible.”

Matt Stinchcomb, now an ESPN analyst, said contracts with licensing companies and video game makers have changed things at the collegiate level.

“I think we all know the reason why we don’t see the long snapper’s jersey in the bookstore is because there’s no individual interest in that long snapper,” Matt Stinchcomb. “There’s a reason why if you walk into any bookstore across the country and you see a jersey, you see an individual player’s number and you know why it’s his number. …There’s something that has happened that’s an additional element to what used to be `You play ball, you get to go to school.’ Now it’s `You play ball, you get to go to school and we’re also going to be able to market you and your likeness and your abilities to capture X amount of dollars in different revenue streams,’ and that’s complicated this thing. What the vehicle is to make it more equitable or return it back what would be a what for what type of contract, I don’t know what that is, but I do know it seems like it’s changed.”

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