Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel can't be paid for his services on the football field until he goes pro, but that doesn't mean that he can't cash in on other people trying to cash in on the "Johnny Football" phenomenon.
According to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com, Leaf Trading Cards, a Texas-based sports card company, announced on Wednesday that it has inserted a card in packs of two of its football card sets that can be redeemed for an autographed Manziel card.
The report states that the trading card company acquired the autographs through third parties with the intent of using them in this manner, but did so without Manziel or Texas A&M's approval.
CEO Brian Gray commented on the cards on Leaf's website:
Leaf wishes to clarify that neither the cards, the use of the signatures included in the cards, nor the artwork, is sanctioned or endorsed by the personality, his university, or any other organization or licensing body. The artwork is an original creation protected by the First Amendment. The cut signatures were obtained by Leaf from third parties. Neither Leaf nor its employees have met with, spoken to, or had any contact with the personality. The depictions on the cards are derived from unique artwork created by an artist under contract to Leaf. The cards represent the artist’s impressions of Johnny Manziel, which Leaf understands to be protected by the First Amendment.
Sure, they are technically "the artist's impression of Johnny Manziel," but let's be honest—that line is being blurred.
Here's the image posted on Leaf's website of the autographed cards.
What do you think?
To me, that looks an awful like Johnny Manziel, not a slight variation of the 2012 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. What gave it away? Well, pretty much everything—including the text.
Manziel and his family have created a company named JMAN2 Enterprises, L.L.C., which, according to the Dallas Morning News, has already sued two T-shirt makers for using "Johnny Football"—a moniker that the company is currently in the process of acquiring a trademark for.
Is this different from selling No. 2 jerseys in the bookstore or a simulated version of "QB No. 2" appearing in a video game? Absolutely.
Fair or not, when a prospect signs on the dotted line, certain NCAA rules apply. That may change at some point in the near future, but rules are rules.
In this case, Manziel's image, name and signature are being used without his permission. According to the report, the NCAA has already stated that the redshirt sophomore quarterback can keep any damages awarded to him through the legal process.
"If they say, 'Well, we're going to keep selling it' or whatever, that's where it comes to a point where we'll sue for damages," Manziel told ESPN.
Something tells me Manziel will make a pretty penny as a result of his newfound fame while still in college—and do so legally.