Obscure Texas statute could result in Manziel autograph seekers being punished

Dr. Saturday

I remain skeptical about the NCAA's ability to pin anything on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel related to him signing autographs for cash. So far there hasn't been a report that included the line "A witness saw Manziel take cash," and when you combine that with the NCAA's general ineffectiveness, it seems like they'll have difficulties suspending the Heisman winner.

But if they do, things could get even more interesting, thanks to a little-known Texas law. The legalese, courtesy of a Fort Worth firm:

The State of Texas passed legislation in 1987 that could hold the autograph hounds liable for their actions if they paid Manziel for his autograph in violation of NCAA legislation. Section 131.004 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code states “a person who violates a rule of a national collegiate athletic association adopted by this chapter is liable for damages in an action brought by an institution if (1) the person knew or reasonably should have know that a rule was violated; and (2) the violation of the rule is a contributing factor to disciplinary action taken by the national collegiate athletic association against the institution or a student at the institution.”

What does that mean, exactly? Mainly that A&M would be able to sue the autograph brokers for “lost television revenues and lost ticket sales of regular season and post-season athletic events” and “reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.” That means if Manziel misses time and the Aggies can prove his absence cost them, say, a chance at a better bowl game and the money they would have made on it, they can go after the broker.

According to Christian Dennie, the author of the post, says the statue has never been used to prosecute a case, but hey, there's a first time for everything. A big question is whether this law would have an effect on brokers in other states, where most of the brokers who claim to be involved with Manziel reside.

"Without knowing the facts of the transactions, it is hard to say," said Dennie when asked about the state border issue. "The interesting question is if the case in brought in federal court in Texas under a diversity jurisdiction argument."

Other schools are already changing their autograph policies in response to the Manziel allegations. Miami players will only be signing school-issued posters, while Louisville is canceling all autograph sessions in lieu of an open scrimmage for fans to attend.

(Thanks to the great Bruce Feldman for the hat tip on this.)

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