Ravens weigh-in on NCAA's new name, image and likeness ruling

Andrew Gillis

OWINGS MILLS, Md. - It's not hard to find players in the Ravens' locker room that are in favor of paying college athletes in some way, shape or form.

After all, they all were once in those shoes themselves. 

And recently, it appears that college athletics are inching toward the payment of college players for use of their name and likeness. 

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With a handful of players who were once big time stars in college, news that student-athletes could be getting closer to benefitting from their collegiate career is certainly welcome for players who were once unpaid college athletes.

"I think everybody here thinks they should've benefitted from playing in college," wide receiver Miles Boykin said. "We're here, we were all big players at our colleges. We've got to kind of move on, we're lucky enough to play in the NFL. But I think anybody in this locker room would fight for the people back at their school to get what they're owed."

On Oct. 29, the NCAA released a statement from its Board of Governors who voted unanimously ‘To permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.' 

This came after a September decision in California called ‘The Fair Pay to Play Act,' which will give athletes at universities in California the ability to hire an agent and get paid for endorsement deals. The law, which the NCAA maintains is unconstitutional, will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2023 - assuming there are no further roadblocks.

While the initial reaction to the news was excitement from college fans, as it appeared to immediately give athletes the ability to make money off of their name and likeness, a deeper look indicates it's not as cut and dry as it may seem. 

The NCAA stated that the "modernization" should follow principles like maintaining priorities of education, making clear distinction of collegiate and professional opportunities, reaffirming that athletes are students first and not employees of the university as well as making clear that compensation for performance or participation is impermissible. 

"I think a lot of people are seeing, or questioning, whether the NCAA is actually trying to do that, or whether they're putting a task force together to prevent it from happening," Robert Griffin III said. "Whatever happens, the players deserve to be able to make money off their name and likeness when the NCAA is making millions of dollars off their name and likeness."

Griffin graced the cover of the wildly popular NCAA Football video game in July 2012 for ‘NCAA Football 13,' only after he'd been drafted in the NFL.

The NCAA Football video game stopped production after its release of ‘NCAA Football 14,' due to an ongoing dispute with players, EA Sports and the NCAA. There hasn't been another edition of the game made since.

"We've talked about it in the locker room, guys have said they're looking for that back pay from NCAA," Griffin said with a grin. "Guys miss the NCAA Football game, but we all understood they were stealing our name and likeness and we weren't getting anything from it."

Griffin, however, knows that just paying athletes for their likeness won't solve all issues around college athletics. 

A student-athlete at Baylor from 2008-2011, he was one of the most publicized college football players in recent memory and was selected second overall by the Washington Redskins in the 2012 NFL Draft. But while Griffin would have been well-situated with his status at Baylor, he knows he teammates wouldn't have. 

"If I'm the starting quarterback at Baylor or Texas or Alabama, yeah, I can make a ton of money off my name and likeness," Griffin explained. "But if I'm the fourth-string quarterback or the seventh receiver or the third-string longsnapper, how much money am I going to be able to make off my name and likeness?"

Orlando Brown Jr., while he agrees athletes should receive some sort of financial compensation, sees it a bit differently. 

"Personally, I think it's simple," the former Oklahoma tackle explained. "I think it's purely based off production and how comfortable your coaching staff is and university is with you doing work in the community. I would say your backups probably aren't going to get much love or many opportunities as the starting quarterback would."

Still, Griffin recalled that while he was at Baylor, there weren't football jerseys flooding the school bookstores. He said there were maybe three players, including himself, whose jerseys were available for sale.

While whatever ends up happening might not be the most fair system, all were in favor - and all admittedly said they didn't keep up with it as closely as they did in college - of athletes seeing some financial benefit.

Griffin said he thinks athletes stipends could be increased to ensure that athletes across the board have a place to eat their next meal, or fly their parents out for a game. That, he says, will make it fair for all athletes and maintain the amateurism the NCAA prides itself on.

"When you say name and likeness, everyone gets, ‘Oh wow, they can make money!'" Griffin said. "But it's not a great opportunity for everybody. You have to make it fair for everyone. Football usually makes the majority of the money for all the programs, so what do you just pay the football players? No, you don't. You have to pay all of the college athletes." 

Another issue that arises is that while the players (currently) cannot make money off of their name and likeness, they are still treated as professionals at some of the biggest schools in the country.

Boykin, who played at Notre Dame from 2015-2018, has seen that from the inside of one of the biggest institutions in college sports. 

"I mean, shoot, you go around most of the big programs in the country and they're treated like professionals," Boykin said. "They're watched like professionals on a week-to-week basis and they're treated like professionals in the building. And they have to act like professionals out of the building. If I make one mistake, I'm treated like a professional and I don't get to play college football anymore."

While most players in the Ravens' locker room did earn some sort of scholarship and had benefits regular students weren't able to receive in their time in college, they weren't able to receive benefits on par with what they believed they provided to the university. 

"I think there was a statistic that the football team brings in more than tuition does at Notre Dame," Boykin said. "Tuition is 60,000 a year. That just speaks for itself of what we do for the campus and for the school, and it's kind of wrong we don't make anything off of it."

MORE RAVENS NEWS:

Ravens weigh-in on NCAA's new name, image and likeness ruling originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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