Lawyers, Will This Fly?

Filed under:Church of Liberalism,Politics — posted by Anwyn on March 16, 2007 @ 9:11 am

Survey of Anwyn says: Probably not.

Following the end of Chief Illiniwek at the University of Illinois, Urbana’s state legislature rep is introducing a bill defining the NCAA’s actions as “improper” when they extend to a university’s choice of mascot and thus allowing the university to sue. Query: couldn’t they have sued anyway? But the NCAA is a sanctioned monopoly–the federal government gives it the exclusive right to govern collegiate sports in member institutions. I don’t know how successful a lawsuit might have been. Here’s the kicker regarding the NCAA’s action as far as I’m concerned:

The university appealed again, arguing the NCAA exceeded its authority, violated the university’s institutional autonomy and applied its policy arbitrarily because other schools were allowed to keep their American Indian mascots if they had approval from the tribe.

That’s somewhat misleading, but in both directions. It’s outrageous that the NCAA applied a standard the U of I couldn’t possibly hope to meet–approval of the tribe–since the tribes of the Illini Confederation no longer exist. On the other hand, the Florida State Seminoles kept their nickname and imagery with the consent of the Florida Seminole tribe, but it seems they also didn’t have an actual mascot like the student who dressed up and portrayed Chief Illiniwek before games. Illinois lost the imagery along with the costumed character, but it’s debatable whether the imagery alone would’ve grabbed so much attention without the dance of the chief.

So this bill, if I get the gist, would make it illegal in Illinois for the NCAA to infringe on a member school’s autonomous choice of mascot. The NCAA will undoubtedly come back with the pseudo-innocence of “We didn’t say they couldn’t have the mascot. We just said we wouldn’t be associated with it.” All well and good from the position of complete collegiate sports autonomy the NCAA holds.


  1. As a lawyer who doesn’t specialize in antitrust, I have no clue. To answer the question, I’d need to know (1) how broad the NCAA’s antitrust exemption is, and (2) whether it preempts state law. I will say this, though: if a law like this won’t fly, it’s high time for Congress to rein in the NCAA’s antitrust exemption.

    Comment by Xrlq — March 16, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

  2. I think it’s pretty broad, but I know there are a couple of state laws that hold up against it–Nevada passed a few after the UNLV/Tarkanian fiasco.

    Comment by Anwyn — March 16, 2007 @ 8:18 pm

  3. Actually I guess in asking “will it fly” I was thinking less of it getting to the courts and more about it passing the Illinois legislature. That’s a good solid “probably not.”

    Comment by Anwyn — March 16, 2007 @ 8:32 pm

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