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Friday, April 16, 2010
New NCAA regs and free speech

The NCAA announced several new rules today, two of which raise interesting questions if one (say, me) were to try to develop a rigorous conception of athlete free speech. (H/T: Rick). First, the NCAA toughened the penalties for taunting by making it, in some situations, a live-ball foul that would bring the ball back to the spot of the foul and might even negate a score. Second, it banned players from putting messages on eye black (outlawing a practice made famous by Reggie Bush and then Tim Tebow).

There clearly is no First Amendment problem here. The NCAA is a private organization (even if some member schools are private), so not bound by the First Amendment. And even if you could find state action, my guess is that current doctrine would treat this as employee speech (ironic, given the controversy over how student-athletes should be perceived and the issue of who should make money off college athletics); the players represent the university on the field, thus their speech may be restricted to enable the university (as "employer") to carry out its functions without interference.

At a normative level, regulations such as these raise interesting issues of how much liberty of speech players ought to have within the team concept. Everyone must wear the same uniform--but is there (and should there be) some room for individual expression, particularly on matters of public concern (depending on what a player chose to write in the eye black)?


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Anonymous faithevans -- 4/16/2010 6:31 AM  


Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/16/2010 8:03 AM  

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Anonymous dodz -- 4/16/2010 9:03 PM  


they can always set any rules they want.

I just hope it will be fine.

Anonymous Article directory -- 4/17/2010 8:33 AM  

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Anonymous Research Paper -- 4/17/2010 8:34 AM  

I've been baffled by the restriction on eye black messages. I understand that, as a private organization, the NCAA has the right to limit speech by its members. However, I do not understand the purpose of limiting personal expression in this way. Regardless of whether there is legal justification for imposing the limitation, I am failing to grasp the rationale. Any insight?

I'm intrigued by the concept of employee speech that might be involved here as well, though I agree with you that it is a strange irony to consider student-athlete expression as employee speech. I wonder if it will be probed in any depth during the debates that are sure to follow these new rules.

I disagree entirely with the taunting spot-foul regulation, but I understand the greater good that it is meant to achieve. A line has to be drawn somewhere between appropriate celebration and poor sportsmanship, but the NCAA might have pushed the limits a bit on this one.

OpenID Sam -- 4/20/2010 3:38 AM  

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