In the midst of Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy-winning season, his family and Texas A&M began the
process to trademark his nickname, “Johnny Football.” While that was a seemingly innocuous move, it may have led directly to the autograph scandal that Manziel is now neck-deep in.
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, an application to trademark “Johnny Football” was originally filed on February 2nd of this year.
The timing of that claim is crucial to the autograph scandal because it came less than a month after autograph dealers say Manziel signed thousands of items for them, according to Darren Rovell and Justine Gubar of ESPN.com..
Many of those items ended up on eBay. That is, until Manziel’s law firm reached out to eBay and informed the auction site that many items on the site were violating Manziel’s trademark claim.
One dealer told Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com that approximately 500 dealers had Manziel memorabilia pulled from eBay because they were using the phrase “Johnny Football” in the description, likely to maximise search hits. Those dealers also had their accounts suspended for two weeks because of the trademark infringement.
According to Feldman, that same dealer has “enjoyed watching Johnny Manziel’s struggles this offseason.”
Whether or not Manziel received money to sign those autographs, it is easy to see why the autograph dealers would be upset if he did indeed agree to sign the items knowing they would end up on eBay, and then a month later forced eBay to pull the items from the website.
If Manziel did get paid, that would only work to heighten their anger.
But if revenge is the motive, why aren’t the dealers working with the NCAA, such is the case with one broker that told “Outside the Lines” that he paid Manziel $US7,500 to autograph items? It may be that they want to hurt Manziel, but at the same time they don’t want to scare away other top athletes.
There is already evidence that other top college football stars have signed items for autograph dealers. It is one thing to lose out on Manziel. It is something else entirely to lose out on all the players, which could put the dealers out of business for good.
At this point it appears that Manziel and the dealers are in a game of cat-and-mouse. In the meantime, we’ll have to wait and see if anybody is angry enough to cooperate with the NCAA.
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