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New NCAA Legislation Will Impact Graphers In The Autograph Game

NCAA

Should players be paid off their likeness? It’s been a hot topic for a while, but hopefully not much longer. The NCAA and state governors are passing legislation that will allow players to cash in on their likeness.

But, the details on how this will work is the big question. Will it come from local commercials? How about putting their face on an internet site or a player potentially doing voiceover work for commercials on the radio. Endless  possibilities will arise for the student athletes. Hopefully, they will have the guidance of public relations or marketing companies outside the university.

What will the new legislation mean for the local autograph business? These businesses rake in tons of money each year on athletes that don’t make a dime.

I was curious.

I wanted to know what went into these money-making machines. I went straight to the source. I found someone known as a “grapher” in the autograph world. Why was it so easy for these graphers to get players’ signatures? Why would so many players continue to sign things without payment?

I had a conversation with a grapher who lives in Tennessee. I was curious to know the ends and outs, while also asking the question, “Should these players get paid for the autographs you are selling?”.

 

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What is your plan on creating a list of players you want to get autographs from?

“Putting who I want to get is depending on how high they are ranked or how well they have played recently or projected for that year’s draft. That’s how I decide who I wanna get.”

 

How do you go about finding the players to sign the memorabilia?

“Timing is everything so like after games most of all guys for football come out the same spot gate 21 and for basketball, they all usually come out the same way on the bottom of the arena. If it’s a practice, I just go to the facility and see what’s happening and determine off that.”

 

How much money do certain players bring in for a signed item?

“Photos wise Eric Gray and Hank T both bring in $35 each usually. Mini helmets like for Harrison Bailey are around $150, and jerseys are a lot more.”

 

Who are you selling these autographed items to? Local stores?

“I usually never sell to a store unless I have way too many and just need to get rid of a few quickly. I usually just sell to local Tennessee fans mostly.”

 

What is the reaction from the players when you are seeking their autographs?

“Most of all players usually don’t care at all and are more than happy to sign, but the team’s staff usually aren’t too thrilled about it. However, players themselves don’t care at all unless they’re in a hurry or something.”

 

Do you feel any guilt knowing the players can’t make any money off signing your items?

“Yes, I do. I feel like they should get a percentage for sure. But, I think at the same time that’s why you see the seniors after there senior season go to autographs signings at a store for money. Like Jauan Jennings, Jordan Bowden, Lamonte Turner, Admiral Schofield, Grant Williams, Kyle Alexander, and Jordan Bone, for example, all did signings right out of there senior season, so it will come to the players so they can make money off it.”

 

How do you feel like the new legislation will affect your business?

“I do think it will affect, but I don’t know what it will be. I’d say players will limit to what they sign knowing they can make there own money from it.”

 

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I went through over 100 different items online that were autographed by Tennessee players. A good chunk of their inventory sells through social media, while also selling leftovers to local memorabilia stores. These items that were sold to the stores have been posted in the past onto Instagram for advertisement. Santiago Vescovi is one example, which was sold to a local store from a grapher, because of leftover inventory.

 

 

Football can be a whole different kind of beast when it comes to the business.

 

I asked Eddie from Eddies Sports Treasure his thoughts on if players should be paid while they are in college for their likeness. “I think players are paid; I think they are paid off their scholarships. I don’t think players should be paid while they’re in school.”

 

 

Eddie’s usually hosts athletes for autograph signings once they complete their last season of eligibility. He said, “I’ve never broken any rules about paying players. I try to help out the players with autograph signings once they graduate.”

Something that is profitable for both parties is the event signings. Eddie’s has recently hosted basketball players, Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner. After the football season ended, he hosted Daniel Bituli, Darrell Taylor and Jauan Jennings for signings, which fans can pay for a ticket and get their memorabilia signed or take a photo.

I also asked Eddie about the graphers that obtain these autographs. “They probably sell 90 percent of their stuff online. I will never pay athletes. I have bought some autographed items from them. No rules are being violated.”

But, back to the graphs. It’s a business — a profitable one at that.

However, it sounds a bit awkward to post up outside a facility waiting on players to emerge to get an autograph. A few other graphers mentioned to me that a good amount of work is done after the games, outside “Gate 21” at Neyland Stadium.

A source from Tennessee told me they know about the graphs, but there isn’t much they can do about them. Tennessee officials do there best at waving the graphers away from the facility. Players are empowered to sign if they want. Most players never want to tell fans no, but they also know those signatures will be worth something very soon.

Everyone has to make a living, that’s understandable, but having part of your income comes off the backs of current players, well I guess that’s where you can decide what side of the fence you’re on. These players are kind enough to sign these items, but they are also getting smarter when it comes to figuring out who’s doing this for a living and who’s just a regular fan looking for something cool to keep.

The day is coming where players will be able to make money on their likeness, which I imagine for the players, comes sooner rather than later.

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