Counterfeiters steal, sell Marvin Bagley III's likeness, leaving him at risk with NCAA

Marvin Bagley III is at risk of violating an NCAA bylaw because someone stole his likeness. (AP)

Marvin Bagley III is a force for Duke basketball.

A surefire top 5 pick in the NBA Draft and one of the most exciting freshmen to ever set foot in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Bagley III has tremendous value on and off the court.

His value on the court is apparent as No. 5 Duke appears on track for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Off the court, that gets tricky. And it’s mostly due to the NCAA’s insistence on keeping its student-athletes broke while running a billion-dollar industry.

Bagley III is relevant today because his likeness has been stolen. The Raleigh News & Observer detailed on Thursday how what should have been a fun moment between the Bagley family and Duke fans has turned into a headache with potential legal and NCAA ramifications — a headache that can be laid solely at the doorstep of the NCAA.

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Bagley III’s dad, Marvin Bagley Jr., decided to print some T-shirts with the likeness of his son’s screaming face and big hair to give to some Duke fans ahead of their January 13 home matchup against Wake Forest.

Bagley Jr. shared photos on his Facebook page of what is clearly the beginning of a brand he intends to take advantage of once his son’s NCAA eligibility is done.

While future profits are clearly in mind, the T-shirts were gifts. No money exchanged, no problem, right?

Wrong. Of course.

The problem isn’t what you might think at first, though. The NCAA didn’t come after Bagley Jr. for the T-shirts. The image from the T-shirts was stolen.

Two days after publishing the above post on Facebook, Bagley posted another claiming that there were pirate copies of his shirt being sold on the internet.

The News & Observer reports that a company called Tee Chip Pro “that allows its users to design and sell their own T-shirts and other merchandise” was selling products with Bagley III’s image, including mugs using a logo almost identical to the one found on Bagley Jr.’s T-shirts.

In addition to the items with similar logos, there are multiple items featuring Bagley III’s likeness being sold as “Marvin Bagley III” merchandise ranging from $20.95 to $42.95 on their web site. Yahoo Sports is not linking to that site for obvious reasons.

So the Bagleys have multiple problems.

First, they’re getting ripped off. The NCAA won’t let Bagley III make a dime off of his talent and image while in school, so counterfeiters are filling in that void and getting paid.

Second, the Bagleys or Duke, under NCAA bylaws, are expected to go after the pirates themselves or risk suffering their own penalty.

NCAA Bylaw

If a student-athlete’s name or picture appears on commercial items (e.g., T-shirts, sweatshirts, serving trays, playing cards, posters) or is used to promote a commercial product sold by an individual or agency without the student-athlete’s knowledge or permission, the student-athlete (or the institution acting on behalf of the student-athlete) is required to take steps to stop such an activity in order to retain his or her eligibility for intercollegiate athletics.

Duke athletics spokesman Jon Jackson told the News & Observer that the school is prepared to address the issue.

“This is not the first time we’ve had to address this kind of issue with one of our student-athletes and we are taking the necessary steps through our compliance office and legal counsel to address it,” Jackson said. “In all other instances such as this, the eligibility of the student-athletes was not in question.”

So, in summary, elite athlete Marvin Bagley III is playing basketball for no financial compensation despite the fair market value of his skills being worth millions of dollars.

His dad made some free T-shirts to give away to fans.

People who are not under the rule of the NCAA stole Bagley III’s image and are making a profit of their own.

Bagley and his family — or more likely Duke in this case —  are “required to take steps” to stop the people stealing from them in order for Bagley III to maintain his NCAA eligibility.

The Bagleys are getting ripped off and facing further punishment from the NCAA because the NCAA considers Bagley III its property as long as he plays in a Duke uniform.

Meanwhile the NCAA expects Bagley and Duke to act as its enforcement mechanism to stop counterfeiters from profiting off what they believe rightfully belongs to them.

Got it. Nicely done, NCAA.

It makes one wonder why Bagley III would place any value on NCAA eligibility to begin with.