Johnson, Ware’s images used to promote party
Players’ endorsements of local club could violate NCAA policy
Two current LSU Tigers might have run afoul of NCAA bylaws for their involvement in promoting a party at a local night club, possibly jeopardizing their eligibility.
Sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Johnson and junior running back Spencer Ware each appeared in a video — along with former LSU Tiger Tyrann Mathieu — promoting a party in March at The Palace, a Baton Rouge night club on Scenic Highway. Johnson also appeared in a poster promoting the party and used social media to advertise the event.
The party, called “Before the Fame,” took place on March 10, 2012 at The Palace. According to the event’s Facebook page invitation, the party was to celebrate the “Era Nation Mixtape release” and was hosted by former Tiger Morris Claiborne and Johnson.
Era Nation is a crew started by Mathieu and his friends from from high school consisting of athletes, songwriters, and musicians, a crew which several LSU players — including Johnson, Tharold Simon, and Sam Gibson — have endorsed on Twitter. Mathieu’s former Twitter handle was TM7_Era, in honor of the crew.
The party was, apparently, itself a promotion for a mixtape of songs they had recorded and were releasing to the public.
(CLICK HERE to view the event’s Facebook page.)
Johnson and Ware’s participation in the promotion of the party could violate NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168, which rules ineligible any student-athlete who “permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind,” whether or not the student-athlete receives benefits. (This is the same bylaw that led LSU to issue a cease and desist to persons selling “Honey Badger” t-shirts in 2011.)
(CLICK HERE to read the bylaw in full.)
The NCAA did not respond for comment on the matter.
When asked last month about Johnson’s participation in the promotion of the party, LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette responded: “He was unaware that his image was being used to promote any type of party. Based on what we know, we have no reason to believe he received any benefits of any kind, and we have no reason to think his eligibility will be affected.”
Bonnette continued: ”As far as we know, he was unaware of any posters or anything that had his likeness or image on it. This was done without Anthony’s approval or understanding that it was even being done. Therefore, there’s no reason to think he’s involved at all.”
However, based on his social media activity, Johnson was, in fact, involved and aware that at least his name — and possibly his image — were being used to promote the party. In fact, Johnson contributed to the promotion.
From one of his two Twitter handles, Johnson re-tweeted a tweet from Xavier Williams — a promoter with The Palace — which listed Johnson as a host. (See the photo below.)
To put it in layman’s terms, Johnson essentially read Williams’ tweet and shared it with all of his followers (as of Nov. 14, 2012, Johnson’s followers at www.twitter.com/da_realfreaklsu numbered 7,471). This action acknowledges some awareness from Johnson that his name was mentioned as “host” of a party — arguably itself a commercial good or service — promoting a mixtape — again, arguably a commercial good or service.
The next day, Williams published a YouTube video featuring Johnson and Ware, who rapped with Era Nation rappers. In the video, text reading “Palace LSU NFL Party” appears as Ware and Johnson are rapping, and before Johnson raps, he says, “It’s Era Nation’s birthday.”
Ware’s participation is less dubious, as he only mutters a single line that makes no reference to Era Nation or a party.
(CLICK HERE to watch the video in full.)
On Oct. 13, 2012, just days before the initial report on Johnson’s appearance in posters for the party was released in Sports Illustrated, Johnson stopped using the @Da_RealFreakLSU Twitter handle and returned to his @freaklsu handle. He had not used the @freaklsu handle since August 2011.
(Read the SI report here.)
The Palace and Williams have used LSU’s football team and its players more than once in promotions. In another YouTube video Williams published the same day as the video referenced above, Williams — standing beside Mathieu — encouraged people to attend the party by name-dropping LSU.
“You already know the whole LSU football team gonna be up in there, ladies,” he said. “We got Era Nation, we got LSU, you know the line gonna be wrapped around the corner. You gotta get there early.”
As recently as this past Saturday after the Mississippi State game, Williams tweeted: “Whole LSU Football Team In #ThePalace Right Now”.
In an interview with WBRZ, Williams said he oversees the design and placement of promotional materials, and that he wasn’t aware that using players’ names or likenesses violated NCAA bylaws.
“[Mathieu] wasn’t aware, totally, of the flyer,” Williams said. “We just used his name as a host to bring more college students to the restaurant that night.”
(CLICK HERE to see that interview in full.)