Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel signed autographs and memorabilia for dealers in two additional sessions — one in South Florida after the Discover BCS National Championship Game in early January; the other in late January in Houston, sources have told “Outside the Lines.”
Florida-based autograph dealer Kevin Freistat backed and helped organize the additional two sessions, sources with knowledge of the events said. The sessions add to the other four signings reported last week by “Outside the Lines.”
Freistat runs an autograph company out of Florida called KLF Sports and has exclusive deals with Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Chipper Jones. Sources told “Outside the Lines” the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback signed at least 1,500 items in each of the two sessions.
The Freistat signings, combined with four sessions previously reported by “Outside the Lines,” would make six signings for three brokers in three states in less than a month for Manziel. Sources said he signed his name more than 4,400 times.
The NCAA is investigating whether any of the autographs violate NCAA by-laws.
Freistat did not return calls or text messages seeking comment. Manziel could not be reached for comment, but his attorney said last week that while Manziel has signed hundreds of autographs in the past year, he was unaware of any evidence Manziel had been paid for doing so. Texas A&M officials on Monday declined to comment.
“Outside the Lines” last week reported that Miami autograph broker Drew Tieman had Manziel sign roughly 1,100 pieces over two days in January in Miami. Two Northeast-based brokers told ESPN’s Joe Schad that Manziel signed about 300 items that same week and that they paid $7,500. None of the sources has told “Outside the Lines” that they saw Manziel take money.
The Tieman and Freistat items were authenticated by two of the leading autograph authentication companies, PSA/DNA and JSA. Representatives of both companies have said in recent weeks they stand by their authenticated items but declined to divulge the names of clients. Both PSA/DNA and JSA told “Outside the Lines” that their representatives were not physically present at any of the Manziel signings.
A person who was at one of the Tieman signings said Tieman paid JSA more than $10,000 to authenticate more than 1,100 Manziel-signed items.
While many college athletes have signed pieces here and there, those in the industry say the consistency of Manziel’s autograph on so many items shows that Manziel wasn’t signing a few pieces for fans while on the run.
“With college guys, you’ll often see different color pens, varying penmanship, autographs signed in different places on a photo,” said Sean Morgan, who owns a sports marketing and memorabilia company called Famous Ink that he says doesn’t buy or sell autographs of current college players. “With Johnny, it’s all the same.”
Autographed Manziel items have appeared for sale for months on eBay and at collector shows. But some eBay sellers have received notices from eBay informing them that they had violated eBay policy as reported by the “rights holder” and that their listings would be immediately removed. The eBay email was prompted by the law firm of J. Bennett White of Tyler, Texas, which represents Manziel.
“Items that include an individual’s name, image, or signature without their permission may infringe their right of publicity and aren’t allowed on eBay,” the email said. Relisting the item would require reaching out to the rights holder through the law firm.
It is not known where in its investigation the NCAA is, as both the NCAA and Texas A&M cited policy in declining comment. If the NCAA finds that Manziel has violated Bylaw 220.127.116.11 — accepting money for promoting or advertising the commercial sale of a product or serviCe – he could be ruled ineligible. Even without proof of Manziel handling cash, he still could be found in violation of NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168. That bylaw requires a student-athlete to make every effort to stop the sale of products featuring his or her likeness.
Justine Gubar is a producer in ESPN’s enterprise unit.
This article was originally posted on ESPN.com