By now you've probably started hearing some of the details of Todd Gurley's indefinite suspension. As we told you here at Dawg Sports earlier, we believed the suspension had something to do with rumors of Gurley signing memorabilia for money, a practice which (cover your ears if you have dainty sensibilities) a lot of big time college athletes engage in.
Certainly we'll have further thoughts on this in the coming hours and days. The closest parallel to the Gurley allegations of which I am aware is the situation involving Johnny Manziel in the summer of 2013, in which Manziel signed some items, there were pictures of him signing some items, but no visual evidence that he accepted any payment for the items.
But wait you ask, how do we know there's no visual evidence of Todd Gurley accepting money for autographs? Answer: because the guy who claims to have paid Gurley $400 for his John Hancock admitted as much to SB Nation's Spencer Hall two weeks ago.
That's when the autograph dealer in question approached Spencer with the details of the story, as he and our SB Nation colleague Steven Godfrey detailed this evening.
I'm not going to speak for Spencer and Steven and the rest of the folks at SB Nation who decided to let this story drop for very good reasons. But I do want to point out one quote from their story:
After verifying a.) the tipster's identity, and b.) that this person has sold Gurley-autographed gear on eBay under the name provided, we let it drop, because the purpose of this website is not to enforce the NCAA's insane bylaws. On the contrary, we're all for players making money, and are thus editorially supportive of those bylaws' erosion.
Let's be very clear about something. Assuming (and this is only assumption) that Todd Gurley accepted money for signing memorabilia, then Todd Gurley broke the rules. They're stupid rules which anyone with a sense of basic human fairness has to admit, in the privacy of his own conscience Mark Emmert, are exploitive and akin to theft. But they are rules. If Todd Gurley broke the NCAA's rule on players profiting from their likenesses then the NCAA is going to punish Todd Gurley for that.
But I am proud to be a part of an organization which clearly, consistently takes the position that the NCAA is on the wrong side of history and basic morality on this issue. Todd Gurley should be able to profit from his abilities the same way every man and woman in America should: based upon what those abilities are worth on the free market. Nothing more, nothing less. SB Nation didn't pander to a guy who actively solicited a college kid to break the rules, then shopped his story to media outlets all over the place in an attempt to bring that kid's career crashing down. I say, without an ounce of partisanship, screw that guy.
Should Todd Gurley have (allegedly) taken $400 for his autograph? No. It was against the rules, and Todd Gurley (allegedly) knew it. Every athlete at Georgia since 2002 has had that drilled into their impressionable young skulls as soon as they set foot on campus.
But should Todd Gurley have been able to accept $400 for signing a stack of glossy 8x10's? You bet your First Team All-American rear end he should have. I know it. You know it. The NCAA knows it. University Presidents, assuming the bow ties aren't choking off the oxygen to their tenured brains, know it. Fundamental notions of fairness dictate that an individual should not be coerced into giving up labor for little or nothing. Much less giving up knees, shoulders, and as we're learning more and more, the individual's very mind. I am exceedingly proud that my colleagues recognized that it's up to the NCAA to enforce its own hypocritical, inconsistent, and often reprehensible rules. As Georgia Supreme Court Justice Logan Bleckley once wrote "We are aware that the great weight of precedent is against us. Nevertheless, we are right, and they are wrong, as history shall one day bear out." Until later . . .