As Texas A&M nears its season-opening game, questions surrounding Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel — specifically, whether Manziel violated NCAA rules by signing autographs — continue to spread.
ESPN is reporting that two additional autograph dealers have come forward to say that Manziel signed memorabilia for them, one in South Florida after the BCS National Championship Game and one in Houston in late January. That brings to six the number of dealers reporting that Manziel signed for them in a private session, with a total number of signatures estimated at 4,400. No sources have come forward witnessing Manziel accepting cash for the autographs.
Two leading authentication firms contacted by ESPN, PSA/DNA and JSA, indicated that they had authenticated the Manziel signatures, which appeared to come from closed-setting signings rather than sideline or spur-of-the-moment encounters. "With college guys, you'll often see different color pens, varying penmanship, autographs signed in different places on a photo," Sean Morgan, owner of a sports marketing and memorabilia company called Famous Ink, told ESPN. "With Johnny, it's all the same."
The NCAA is in the process of investigating Manziel, but has not disclosed the status of that investigation. Manziel could be in danger of running afoul of the NCAA's Bylaw 18.104.22.168 — that is, accepting money for promotional activities. That could render him ineligible to play, and could force a forfeit of any games in which he did play prior to the announcement of the punishment.
ESPN noted that the NCAA could also find that Manziel violated Bylaw 22.214.171.124, which requires players to make every effort to halt the sale of items with their likeness, and could do so without necessarily finding that Manziel received cash. That is the likely reason why many ebay sales of Manziel memorabilia have been halted; those sellers have been informed that they are in violation per the "rights holder" of the memorabilia, listed as Manziel's law firm of J. Bennett White of Tyler, Texas.
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