Fall 2011 Symposium – Mississippi Sports Law Review

Social Media and Intercollegiate Athletics

The intersection of media and collegiate athletics has become an increasingly hot topic in recent years in several different ways. The consolidated O’Bannon and Keller cases, for instance, raises important issues related to the use of players’ likenesses in video games, the right of publicity of college athletes, and the degree to which universities exploit athletes through sale of personalized jerseys and other swag and memorabilia. The Ohio State scandal also bears on these issues, as the NCAA is punishing the players for selling their personal belongings, essentially profiting off of their image, while facilitating other entities (the University, video games, etc.) in performing the same function. Finally, the use of social media also relates to the issue of the right of publicity of college athletes, who certainly have an interest in expressing their thoughts and opinions. Recently, a number of universities, including Mississippi State, have adopted policies restricting the use of social media by their athletes — to what extent do such policies violate the rights of the athletes? Thus, this symposium aims to explore and identify the legal and practical ramifications of the athletes’ right to expression, the universities’ and NCAA’s right to limit such expression, and the universities’ and NCAA’s right to sell and / or profit off of such expression.