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NCAA’s ‘Battle in the Bubble’ trademark request is a careless money grab

Profiting. In the middle of a pandemic. When name, image, and likeness is a major issue.

Michigan State v Virginia Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

According to multiple reports, the NCAA has filed a trademark request for the phrase “Battle in the Bubble”.

Per ESPN, the phrase could be used for live athletic contests, games, tournaments and exhibitions along with the NCAA’s television, radio and multimedia programs around those events. Even athletic uniforms are listed in the NCAA’s list of clothing items.

During a pandemic in which some athletes can’t even play due to health concerns or because their sport has been postponed or cancelled, the last thing the NCAA should be trying to do is profit off these unprecedented times. The NCAA hasn’t shown any ability to put together a cohesive and universal plan for each conference in terms of how to move forward in the midst of the COVID-19 era. However, they have the wherewithal and bravado to file for a catchy trademark that capitalizes off the fact players, who don’t get paid, may have to be put in a bubble like professional athletes in the NHL and NBA. On the surface, this looks bad.

College athletes are starting to realize their collective bargaining power and how powerful their collective voice can be more than ever before, with name, image, and likeness being a major talking point.

As USA Today put it, “By this point, it’s not even worth pointing out the absurdity of the NCAA pleading ‘amateurism’ when faced with the prospect of paying its athletes then turning around and doing something like this. It’s just another drop in a big old bucket of shameless money grabs.”

“In all likelihood this is something that they’re planning to use going forward in the next couple months,” trademark lawyer Josh Gerben said.

The trademark can be used for any sport. While it’s easy to assume that a bubble is most likely to be used for college hoops, maybe a bubble will occur in other sports as well.

Inappropriate, ill-considered, and opportunistic are just some of the ways a trademark like this can be described. ‘Battle in the Bubble’ isn’t March Madness. The bubble isn’t fun. The bubble is sad. The bubble is here because things suck right now. Sacrifices are made in the bubble. Players don’t get to see all their family and friends in the bubble. But go ahead, NCAA, make some money off this bubble while the student-athletes give up some of their freedoms to keep their program coronavirus free.

NBA players have pointed to struggled to keep their mental health at a positive level inside their bubble in Orlando at Disney World. ”I underestimated mental health, honestly,” Los Angeles Clippers small forward Paul George said. “I had anxiety, a little bit of depression, from being locked in here. I just wasn’t here, I was checked out. Games 2, 3, 4, I wasn’t there.” The point of using George as an example is to show the players have their share of hardships in a bubble environment, and the NCAA making money off a construct like this isn’t something that should be acceptable or given a thumbs up.

If the NCAA was to somehow distribute the funds from any ‘Battle in the Bubble’ merchandise to players, that would change the dynamic of this conversation. But that’s not what’s going to happen. Whatever creates max profit for the executives and leaves players without a penny is the route the NCAA chooses to go until federal entities makes them clean up their act. Change is coming, but not soon enough for the players that have to deal with this ‘Battle in the Bubble’ nonsense.