United States: Trouble Afoot: Duke's ‘Shoe-Gate' Highlights Current Controversies In College Basketball

By now, most collegiate sports fans are likely well-versed in the commentary surrounding Zion Williamson’s injury during the highly anticipated February 20th game between the University of North Carolina and Duke. With the give of the glue on his left shoe, Williamson set off a firestorm of discussion around a “one and done” system that put his lucrative pro career in jeopardy so he could take the court for a university that may never hand him a diploma. 

It just so happens that we tackled this exact topic during a recent program presented for our Higher Education practice. 

Entitled “The Road From The Final Four,” the webinar took an in-depth look at NCAA college basketball after the FBI indictments of several assistant college coaches, shoe company executives, and advisors, and the reaction to those arrests by the NCAA and the college basketball community. During part of the presentation, my colleague, Katie Wendel, and I discussed the big UNC-Duke game occurring that same night. Little did we know then that less than one minute into this highly anticipated broadcast of one of the most heated rivalries in sports — and a marquee primetime program on ESPN — Williamson would fall to the floor with a knee injury. 

What made this injury so remarkable was its apparent cause. As the announcers excitedly exclaimed, his Nike sneaker simply “exploded” at the seams, causing Williamson to slip as his legs split apart. Prior to tip-off, fans, including the Cameron Crazies (Duke’s famously raucous student section), were in a complete frenzy, but they fell silent as Williamson first lay on the floor clutching his knee, and later gingerly walked to the locker room, toting the busted sneaker in one hand. The electricity in the stands was gone. North Carolina, which was ranked 12th in the national polls, cruised to victory over No. 1 Duke, which had to play without its prized freshman star. 

I describe this moment in detail because it perfectly illustrates the problematic intersection of players, coaches, television and shoe companies, and why additional discussion and action may be needed to adequately reform a system that, according to the NCAA, is not working to the benefit of those affected.

The Rice Commission and the NCAA looked squarely at this system in making and adopting certain recommendations. They put a spotlight on the vast amount of money involved in that system, and stressed that college basketball may be forgetting that its “basic purpose” is “to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body.” 

In theory, yes, universities should be keeping the “college” in college athletics. But in reality, we are faced with a game like UNC-Duke — a match-up with NBA-level hype that demonstrates the serious conflict between big dollar sports and higher education. The 9 p.m. weeknight game was attended by former President Obama. Tickets on the secondary market were selling in excess of $2,000. This was a big sports spectacle with college athletes at its very center. It seems unlikely that any of the players under that intense media glare were focused on the next day’s biology exam. And other than the athletic scholarship, including the new cost of attendance provisions, the players were receiving no compensation. In contrast, last year Duke Coach Krzyzewski made close to $9.0 million, and UNC Coach Williams earned almost $3.0 million.

In the wake of Williamson’s injury, sports commentators spent endless hours discussing whether Williamson was a victim of the “one and done” system that forced him to go to college instead of allowing him to immediately sign with the NBA. Additional discussion centered on Nike’s liability and responsibility for the injury, and if Duke and Coach K bore some responsibility as Williamson had no choice in what shoes he could wear while playing for Duke. 

Furthermore, everyone had an opinion on whether Williamson should sit out for the rest of the season or risk an injury that, if serious, could affect his future earning potential in the professional ranks. The NCAA now, however, allows players, with institutional assistance, to purchase insurance against injury up to $30 million, a result of recent reform to better protect an elite athlete while he plays for free.

What’s interesting and noteworthy, however, is that in all the dialogue, Williamson’s collegiate educational experience was never discussed. He was a “one and done” athlete-student (notice the switch in terminology; Williamson was primarily an athlete, not a student); there was likely never any intention that he would matriculate towards a degree from Duke; or at least not anytime soon. The NBA and the NBPA have a rule protecting current members over future members by limiting the employee pool. With great assistance from the professional NBA, the collegiate sport apparatus’ only result was to delay Williamson from being rewarded for his skills on the professional level. Through Williamson’s athletic prowess, Duke was able to continue as a dominant force in college basketball and with Coach K as its most successful coach. Nike continued to sponsor a marquee university program with the player wearing its product, and only one of those two entities receives compensation.

This game did make you think. It made you realize that reforms cannot come quickly enough. Fortunately, it looks like Williamson’s injury is not serious, and Nike will address the flaw in the shoe, but what would the ramifications be if the injury was serious, and Williamson’s career was derailed? I, for one, hate to think about it, and hope this warning makes those with the power to make changes do so immediately.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Sign Up
Gain free access to lawyers expertise from more than 250 countries.
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Country
Position
Industry
Mondaq Newsalert
Select Topics
Select Regions
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions