- Former NFL player Jeremy Bloom lost his college football eligibility after doing a promotion as a skier in the Olympics.
- The NCAA claimed he violated amateurism status.
- So Bloom devoted himself to fighting the NCAA on the issue, and released a new documentary.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Former NFL player Jeremy Bloom will never forget how his college football career ended.
He set four program records as a wide receiver in his first two seasons at the University of Colorado in 2001 and 2002, including the school’s all-time longest passing play. But his run at Colorado ended prematurely after he pursued of another athletic dream: skiing in the Olympics.
Bloom competed in his first Winter Olympics in 2002 at Salt Lake City, Utah, but he had a difficult choice to make.
“As I was coming into my freshman year, the NCAA said, ‘Hey, well if you want to play amateur football you have to give up your ski endorsements,'” Bloom told Insider. “And for any Olympic athlete, that’s how we pay for an expensive Olympic sport — we get endorsements.”
Bloom agreed to give up the endorsements for his first two seasons at Colorado. But then it came time to prepare for his second Olympic stint in 2006 at Torino, Italy, and he needed the money.
“In order to compete for my second Olympics for the United States, I was in a situation where I needed endorsements my junior year” Bloom said. “And then they [the NCAA] declared me permanently ineligible. So I didn’t get to play my junior or senior year, this was in 2003 and 2004. And really ever since then, I’ve just been on the front lines of fighting for student athletes’ rights.”
Bloom went gone on to compete in two more Olympics and even played one season in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2006. But he has also become a leader in the movement to bring endorsement rights to college athletes. Most recently, Bloom partnered with Vice TV and Pulse Films to produce a documentary called “VICE VERSA: College $ports, Inc.” that tells the stories of current and former college athletes who’ve faced punishment from the NCAA for accepting money based on their name, image, and likeness.
Bloom’s first fight was a losing effort in court
Bloom sued the NCAA in 2004 in an attempt to stop the association from ending his college football career. The suit challenged the NCAA policies that deny college athletes the ability to collect endorsement money from other sports.
Bloom’s team pointed out that the NCAA allows college athletes to collect salaries as professional athletes in other sports and keep their college eligibility. That’s what former Michigan quarterback Drew Henson did while playing professional baseball during his college career. So why not endorsement for other sports?
But the legal challenge failed, in part because of a harsh detail in the NCAA’s handbook called Restitution 19.8.
That policy said that if a judge reinstated an athlete to play college sports after they’d received endorsement money, and then another judge in an equal or higher court later overruled that decision, then every game the athlete played in would be forfeited and the program would incur heavy financial penalties.
“The judge felt strongly that I was right. He said it in his closing arguments — he said, ‘This is absurd, there’s already precedent for what Jeremy’s asking for,'” Bloom said. “But he said, ‘I can’t put my ruling at the risk of the University of Colorado.'”
The judge — a University of Colorado alum and fan of the football team — ultimately ruled against Bloom.
Now Bloom is telling the stories of other college athletes
Bloom thinks that often, college athletes may not think about whether or not they’re being exploited, since their focus is often on the excitement of college sports and the positive reception they get from fans.
“It is the hardest to see this issue when you’re in college because for the first time in your life, you’ve got people who love you, you’re signing autographs, you’re taking pictures, you feel so special,” Bloom said. “And then once you get on the other side, you look back and it’s like, ‘Whoa, I was really taken advantage of.’ So it’s really encouraging to see the current generation of student athletes revolt.”
However, college athletes are increasingly speaking up to demand the right to benefit from their own name, image, and likeness. During the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, some players spoke out against the NCAA on social media and even threatened to boycott games in protest. Additionally, a group of college athletes have taken the issue to the supreme court, though they’ve yet to get a ruling.
Bloom hopes his film will convince more people that college athletes deserve to profit from endorsements — including those still arguing against it.
“The first thing I would say to that group of people is that I hear you and I understand where you’re coming from, because there is a purity in college athletics that we all love,” Bloom said. “I just believe it’s been mistakenly attached to the fact that they’re not allowed to make any money. That’s not going to change the purity of the game. That’s not going to change the play on the field.”