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Wiseman controversy prompts legislators Parkinson, Kelsey to amend proposed athlete legislation

Just hours before the University of Memphis Tigers tipoff against their first nationally-ranked opponent The University of Oregon Ducks, new allies have emerged in the legal fight to preserve freshman star James Wiseman’s NCAA eligibility — and they are in the Tennessee State Legislature.

State Rep. Antonio Parkinson of Memphis and State Sen. Brian Kelsey had already introduced legislation mirroring California’s new law that allows athletes to profit from their likeness. On Tuesday, in a series of tweets, both lawmakers announced that they would be adding language to the bills to protect Wiseman and others in similar situations.

From Parkinson’s Twitter feed:

Kelsey released an identical statement on Facebook:

“Peyton Manning donated $1 million to the University of Tennessee last year,” Sen. Kelsey said in a joint statement with Parkinson, sent to The New Tri-State Defender. “Does that mean that he can never become a coach and invite his players over for popcorn to watch a bowl selection show?

“This arcane NCAA rule would discourage Eric Berry from donating to the University of Tennessee in case he wants to ever become the UT defensive backs coach,” Kelsey said.

The controversy exploded Friday evening just hours before the Tigers played the University of Illinois-Chicago. After releasing a statement indicating Wiseman was “likely ineligible,” Wiseman’s legal team sought and acquired an injunction that allows him to play until at least the next court date on Nov. 18. Wiseman had 17 points, nine rebounds and five blocks against UIC.

At the center of the controversy are two undisputed facts: Hardaway donated $1 million to his alma mater in 2008, thus making him a “booster in perpetuity;” and in 2017, Hardaway gave $11,500 to Wiseman’s family to facilitate their move from Nashville to Memphis, where he would win a state championship at East High School, with Hardaway as his high school coach. Neither was affiliated with the University of Memphis at the time.

The University of Memphis and Hardaway are standing with Wiseman in his quest to play, but the move comes with risks. If a judge rules in favor of the NCAA, any games Wiseman played in would likely be forfeited regardless of who scored the most points. And even harsher penalties could follow, the kind that could cripple Memphis basketball for years to come.

But Wiseman and other student-athletes have allies in Kelsey and Parkinson:

“State law trumps any rule created by the NCAA,” Parkinson said in the joint statement with Kelsey. “Unfortunately those rules created by the NCAA are harmful to the student-athletes who actually generate the revenue in college sports.

“Lastly, if you remove the student-athletes,” Parkinson said, “the NCAA becomes nothing but a useless organization.”

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