On Wednesday, Duke’s standout freshman Marvin Bagley III declared for the NBA draft, where he’ll be a certain lottery pick.
Earlier in the day, The Oregonian published an investigation into the practices of apparel giants like Nike and Adidas and how they foster relationships with rising stars with apparent NBA futures. The report was spurred by the ongoing NCAA pay-for-play scandal and FBI investigation.
Bagley and his relationship with Nike were the focus of the story. The crux of the report ties a line from the time that the Bagley family declared bankruptcy and appeared to have their home foreclosed on to Nike’s relationship with the Bagleys and their move into a gated Southern California community when Marvin was in high school.
From the report:
Marvin Bagley Jr. and his wife filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April 2008, during the Great Recession, listing their combined annual income at just over $44,000. Property records indicate the Bagley home was sold in 2011 at a trustee’s sale — typically a sign of a foreclosure.
Four years later, shortly after Nike’s sponsorship of the team became public, they left their working-class neighborhood in Phoenix for Southern California. In a tax filing, the Bagleys listed a home address in a gated subdivision in Northridge called Porter Ranch. Similarly sized homes in the vicinity typically sell for $750,000 to $1.5 million, said Jose Contreras, a Coldwell Banker real estate broker active in the area. Rents in the neighborhood range from $2,500 to $7,500 a month.
Neither the Bagleys nor Nike would offer any details about the team sponsorship or the family’s personal finances. Contacted via telephone and through the Duke University sports information department, the Bagleys “respectfully declined” to comment.
The Oregonian also noted that Bagley attended an elite private school in California with an annual tuition listed at $36,250.
The story details how Nike began its relationship with Bagley when he was 16 years old. The shoe company backed Bagley’s club team Phoenix Phamily in Arizona, which was coached by his father, Marvin Bagley Jr.
It’s a common practice for apparel companies to build relationships early with athletes who have potential to be impactful pros.
In order to maintain amateur status and NCAA eligibility, players are not allowed to receive any direct financial benefit from apparel companies’ relationship with their teams. Nothing prohibits Nike in its sponsorship effort of the team, though, and the obvious implication here is that the Bagley family benefited from that sponsorship with Bagley Jr. as the team’s head coach.
While the details here are new, the basis of the report isn’t.
Bagley Jr. told Sports Illustrated in 2016 that the family was trying “to make ends meet” thanks to Phoenix Phamily’s relationship with Nike.
And even without Bagley Jr.’s apparent 2016 admission to benefiting financially from Nike, nobody paying attention to college sports should be surprised that an elite athlete reportedly managed to cash on his value for his family.
Shady financial dealings have been, are and will be the norm as long as the NCAA does not allow its athletes to benefit from the value they provide as schools and television networks profit from a billion dollar industry.
It’s a stance the NCAA actively and laughably promoted in the midst of its $700 million basketball tournament.
The bottom line is that Bagley’s talents award him with tremendous financial value. In June, when he becomes a top-three pick in the NBA draft, he’ll be able to cash in on that value legitimately for the first time.
If his family has managed to prosper in the meantime from the legitimate value he’s provided, that should not be a violation or a crime.
But until dramatic changes are made around the farce of NCAA amateurism, families like the Bagleys who were facing bankruptcy will be faced with the decision of remaining in dire financial straights or traveling unsavory avenues to receive financial benefits that should be rightfully theirs to begin with.
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