HBL statement on the FBI investigation and Title IX

The Historical Basketball League (HBL) is a college basketball league that intends to begin play in the summer of 2019 with teams comprised of students at great historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).  The HBL is committed to the idea that high-quality basketball played by full-time college students is an appealing commercial product that also provides tremendous educational opportunity to athletes.  In contrast with other college sports associations, the HBL is strongly opposed to the concept of “amateurism” and we intend to pay our athletes for their names/images/likenesses and for their playing service, with a salary in addition to a scholarship.

As a league, we are deeply troubled by recent efforts by the federal government to turn efforts to violate the NCAA’s “amateurism” rules into federal crimes.  From our perspective, it was the “amateurism” rules themselves that are worthy of federal intervention, not efforts to circumvent those rules, however stealthily executed.

In contrast, we are excited to announce that we have received guidance from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), explaining that financial assistance provided to athletes by HBL likely falls under Title IX’s ambit, as OCR defines it.  The HBL will comply fully with this and future OCR guidance and the HBL will set aside funds for schools to enhance funding to their women athletes in proportion to salaries paid to HBL athletes.

The combination of these two issues – efforts to criminalize under-the-table payments to male athletes and recognition that any financial assistance provided to men must be matched proportionally under Title IX – emphasizes more than ever how the current system of amateurism deprives men and women athletes of their full economic rights. The HBL is very proud that our business plan calls for open and honest negotiations among shoe/apparel companies, universities, our future athletes, and the league office.  We intend for every athlete who wishes to have a professional endorsement contract during his time in our league to realize that opportunity and experience a better path to the prosperity of all parties involved, while not having to risk receiving signing bonuses and finders’ fees deemed “criminal.” And we’re also proud that any salary the HBL pays to our athletes will then result in increased funding for women’s sports, with the HBL funding proportional matching payments by our member schools.

Given the state of flux in the industry, the HBCUs that join the HBL will have the opportunity to reset their market value, including the value of their apparel deals, to leverage their historic brands, and will provide their partners with an above-the-table way to conduct business responsibly and in compliance with federal law.  Additionally, the HBL will have a certification process for financial advisers and athlete agents, and closely monitor their efforts in managing the business affairs of our athletes and their families.

The HBL encourages any college athlete who wishes to receive compensation for his playing services or his endorsement of athletic products, and for the manufacturers of those products, to consider a transparent system for future marketing efforts.  We anticipate it will prove more profitable to all, and in light of recent events, far less likely to involve retaining a criminal defense attorney.

The problem is amateurism.  The solution is the HBL.

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