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‘This Could Never Undo What We and Our Families Endured’: Former Ohio State Football Players Issue Letter to NCAA Following NIL Rule Change, Nearly a Decade After ‘Tattoogate’

Early this year, the NCAA reversed its NIL policy prohibiting student-athletes from profiting from their name, image, and likeness. Now five former Ohio State football players who were involved in a 2010 scandal over the sale of their memorabilia for cash and tattoos are requesting that the organization restore their legacies and that of the university from that season, although the men did not clarify how the rule change affects the kind of conduct in their cases.

In a lengthy statement released on Tuesday, July 13, Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Solomon Thomas, Mike Adams, and Daniel “Boom” Herron — all involved and what is now called “tattoogate” — requested that the NCAA reinstate the team’s 12-1 record along with individual records. 

“Now that fundamental right has been granted to a new generation of athletes. Now that they finally have the freedom to share in some of the millions of dollars in revenue they generate for their coaches, their institution, their conferences, and the NCAA as a whole, we would like to see our hard won accomplishments reinstated,” the men, self-titled “Tattoo 5” wrote. “Although this could never undo what we and our families endured for breaking rules that shouldn’t have existed in the first place, we believe reinstating and acknowledging the accomplishments of ourselves and our teammates would be a huge step in the right direction.” 

The letter lists several of the men’s accolades, including winning a Big Ten Championship, defeating Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, and some of their personal triumphs. “We look forward to one day telling our story and the Tattoo 5 forever being a legitimate part of Ohio State’s glorious history.”

As some observers have pointed out, even now it remains against the rules at Ohio State for athletes to trade memorabilia and gear issued by the team, so it is unclear why the five players are suggesting the NIL changes would apply to the conduct in their case.

Reactions to the statement were mixed. While many argued that “the rules are the rules,” much like what is being echoed in Sha’Carri Richardson’s Olympic disqualification controversy, while others contended that the items the young men sold at the time were their own property. 

“They sold property that belonged to them so they could afford tattoos. This is what gets people’s panties in a crunch?” wrote one Twitter user. “AND they allowed the players to beat the crap out of Arkansas. Why? So they could make more money off their names. NCAA is so crooked.”

Another commented, “If I get a speeding ticket 10 years ago for driving 50 in a 40, and they change the speed limit today to 50, I can’t go back and ask for a refund. It was shady and breaking the rules then, and it’s allowed now. Get over it.”

Aforementioned, nearly a decade ago, the NCAA ruled that Pryor sold several items, including his 2008 Big Ten championship ring and a “gold pants” charm, which was given to players after defeating Big Ten rival Michigan. Yet, they allowed the suspended team members to play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in January 2011, with their suspension starting the first game of the next season. However, Pryor, the starting quarterback, never again played for the Buckeyes after the Sugar Bowl. Their coach and the current president of Youngstown State in Youngstown, Ohio, Jim Tressel, resigned on under pressure on May 30, 2011. Tressel also denied ever knowing of his players’ activities. 

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