Rutgers guard Geo Baker led the 10th-seeded Scarlet Knights to a 60-56 victory over Clemson last Friday in the opening round of the men’s NCAA Tournament, but prior to the game, the team was deciding whether or not to protest their inability to make money as college athletes.
Baker, along with Isaiah Livers of Michigan and Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon, are leading the charge in the #NotNCAAProperty movement, which is urging the NCAA to switch its rules when it comes to not allowing athletes to earn money from sponsorship deals, online endorsements, and appearances.
Baker and Livers were wearing #NotNCAAProperty shirts during warmups prior to their games last week. Baker told ESPN that the three players and their teammates considered other forms of protest, which included delaying the start of NCAA Tournament games.
“We definitely talked about delaying games,” Baker told ESPN during an interview that will air on Saturday. “Us and Clemson actually were talking about delaying the game, but basically what ended up happening was we all believed that the television channel was going to get changed as soon as we tried something. So it ended up not going through.”
The ultimate reason why Rutgers and Clemson decided not to protest the start of the game was that Clemson players were worried about the reaction from their coaches, and Baker said since it was Rutgers’ first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1991, he didn’t want the pregame protest to dominate the headlines over what the team had accomplished this season.
“It was a unique situation because we hadn’t made the tournament in 30 years, so I didn’t want to ask guys to go out of their way to delay something or protest something that Rutgers fans haven’t seen in 30 years,” Baker said. “That’s a really long time … [but] we definitely talked about it.”
The National College Players Association sent out a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert on behalf of Bakers, Livers and Bohannon, saying that they were disappointed that he wanted to wait until after the tournament to have a meeting with them.
The three players are all expected to meet with Emmert to discuss the protest, as well as the whole process with the NCAA changing its rules to allow players to make money off their image, but the U.S. Department of Justice sent out warnings about antitrust violations in the association’s proposal. Next week, an NCAA case is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court and the concerns surrounding the antitrust ruling.
“We are disappointed that you intend to delay this important conversation for at least two weeks,” the players wrote in the letter, which was sent to Emmert by NCPA executive director Ramogi Huma. “From our perspective, it’s difficult to imagine any higher priority you may have at this time … Can you please explain what you will be doing over the next two weeks that is more important than addressing these matters?”
On Tuesday, NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn said that the organization had no comment, according to ESPN.