INDIANA– SportShooter.com has beena valuable tool for budding sports photographers to share their work. Butathletic departments at some schools claim that posting a prize photo capturingthe winning volleyball spike may break NCAA rules.
And at least oneuniversity has threatened to take away press credentials from photographers whopost athletes’ pictures on the Web site.
NCAA officials arescheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss if posting photos of student athletes ononline portfolios like SportsShooter.com violates bylaws that prohibit profitingon the likeness of NCAA-eligible athletes.
SportsShooter.com is aWeb site where student and professional photographers can post their photos inan effort to share their work and receive feedback from otherphotographers.
According to a Jan. 28 article in theNews Photographer, a magazine put outby the National Press Photographer’s Association, several members whoposted photos of student athletes on SportsShooter.com received letters lastweek from their universities asking the photographers to remove theimages.
NCAA regulations prohibit using the images of collegeathletes for “promotional” or “commercial” purposes, butusing the photo for editorial purposes is not in violation of NCAA rules.
In November 2005, the NCAA determined that when a photographerposted photos of Syracuse University football players on his SportsShooter.comprofile, he did not violate NCAA rules because the purpose was“editorial” and the photographer was not profiting from theimages.
Prior to theNCAA’s decision, Syracuse University’s athletic communicationdirector threatened to revoke the photo credentials issued to the studentnewspaper, The DailyOrange, if the photos were notremoved.
“The NCAA said students have every right to post theseimages,” said Jared Novack, editor in chief ofThe Daily Orange. “One of theproblems we have had for years with SU athletics is that we feel like we have toconstantly protect ground over these kind of minor tiffs we getinto.”
But that decision has not stopped three or fouruniversity administrators from contacting SportsShooter.com with requests toremove their student athletes’ photos from the site, said GroverSanschagrin, the executive producer and administrator of SportsShooter.com.Sanschagrin said he does not think the site is violating any NCAA rules and willnot remove any photos.
“The photographers control theirphotos,” he said.
Kent Barrett, director of media relationsfor the NCAA, said it is up touniversities to make sure their student athletes’ NCAA eligibility is notbeing violated. NCAA rule 126.96.36.199 states that a student athlete’sinstitution must take steps to stop the publication of the athlete’s nameor picture on commercial items like sweatshirts and posters, for example.
Bradley Wilson, coordinator of student media at North Carolina StateUniversity, said the athletic outlets and the NCAA are going too far to restrictphotographers.
“Hardly anyone can shoot football practiceanymore at the big schools,” Wilson said in an e-mail. “At ourschool, we can’t even shoot baseball practice without an escort. Icertainly understand the need to protect the student athletes, be we have a jobto do as well.”
Wilson said limiting what photographers canpost on Web portfolios could eventually lead to restricting what studentnewspapers would be able to post on their Web sites.
“Limitingthis site is just one step away from limiting the ability of student mediaoutlets to display their work on online sites as part of a regularpublication,” he said.
Barrett said the meeting on Friday atthe NCCA national office in Indianapolis will not yield any decisions — itis just an informational meeting among NCAA officials. He said the group doesnot have the authority to make decisions about how the NCAA collectively willinterpret the policy.
“It’s just a group of people whohave taken a few phone calls who are sharing information and trying to figureout the meaning of that particular bylaw,” Barrett said.
Wilsonsaid he thinks a few NCAA officials did not understand the rules and attemptedto enforce their interpretation of the bylaw.
“I have everyconfidence that, once they learn the value of the site and similar sites, thatthe NCAA will instruct all schools that participation in such venues is not onlyacceptable, it’s part of the educational mission of the participatingcolleges and universities,” Wilsonsaid.
—by Emily Walker SPLC staff writer