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University of Iowa Swimmers Told to Remove Name, Likeness from Startup

UI swimmers start a company. The NCAA gets mad. Shocking? Hardly.

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College athletes using their name and likeness has become a pretty common hot button topic over the past few years.

With the rise of the internet and the potential for profit on it, the NCAA has gotten extremely strict on what college athletes can and cannot be a part of, buisness-wise.

NCAA rules prohibit them from using their names and athletic likenesses to profit in any way. It doesn’t matter if it’s not related directly to the sport they’re competing in, they just can’t do it.

The NCAA argues that it removes their amateur status and makes them professionals.

Earlier this year, the college sports governing body told Iowa swimmers Chris Dawson and Tom Rathbun to remove their name and likeness from a company the pair founded.

In February, the duo launched a company called Trailheads Apparel and received $645 in two days on GoFundMe, according to a story by the Cedar Rapids Gazette’s Erin Jordan.

The GoFundMe apparently included that the pair met as swimmers on the UI’s varsity team. That quickly became an NCAA eligibility issue. Both athletes were declared ineligible while they negotiated a waiver.

They had to remove any and all references to UI swimming, including names and photos from the website.

Fine, they’re D1 college athletes again. Good on them. Sorry they had to go through that. A minor slap on the wrist from the NCAA.

It’s a tough pill to swallow when you come down hard on a couple athletes who are trying to make a buck off the fact they’re incredible athletes. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around.

It’s simply a couple athletes trying to make a few dollars off the fact they understand fitness (and, more importantly, humor) and were smart enough to create some apparel off those facts.

Here’s a fact: Amateurism is ridiculous.

A few weeks ago I read into Donald De La Haye, a UCF football player who was making money off his popular YouTube channel.

The NCAA said he couldn’t make any money off his own personal skills and the following he’d created online. It bothered me. Yes, these college athletes get scholarships, but they’re not always as much as they seem.

In 2016, 9.67 scholarships at Iowa were allocated to the men’s swimming and diving team, totalling $423,786. And that money likely wasn’t spread equally among all 30 members of the men’s team receiving some sort of financial scholarships through the school.

Like any non-revenue sport, scholarships are almost always divided up among the different athletes.

To me, there’s no reason athletes shouldn’t be able to use their likeness to sell a product. College is a time to meet people, come up with great ideas and figure out what you want to do with your life.

It’s insane to me that athletes are being denied the right to create something cool that ends up blowing up for them.

If, for a couple years of your life, a person wants to use the fact they’re better in their sport than 99% of the people on this planet to sell something, they should have the right to do that.

They’re not hurting the school, nor the NCAA and denying them the right to sell themselves because of “amateurism” is insane. Any other college student would probably be commended for starting a successful company and there certainly are funds that good ideas can win, to help them do that.

Denying athletes the right to profit off themselves — just like anyone else can — is not only unfair, it’s just plain wrong.