Reporter Challenges NCAA Policy, Gets His Cat Mug Confiscated

Wall Street Journal reporter Jason Gay's cat mug violated NCAA's ban on all unofficial cups at tournament games

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images/DeAgostini

    A reporter covering the Elite Eight showdown on Sunday found that even his cute cat mug would not escape NCAA's strict branding rules.

    Wall Street Journal reporter Jason Gay brought a mug featuring illustrations of cats in various poses to Sunday's game between Connecticut and Michigan State at Madison Square Garden in New York City, violating NCAA's ban on all unofficial cups at tournament games.

    "I was not innocently wandering into the Garden with a cat mug," Gay wrote in an article documenting the absurd incident. "I felt the NCAA cup rule was pretty funny, and a bit ridiculous, so I wanted to wage a tiny protest against the NCAA by bringing my kitty cat beverage holder to the game.”

    Gay knew the mug, although adorable, violated NCAA regulations and that his credentials to cover the tournament required him to obey those rules. Powerade is the exclusive and official beverage of the NCAA, and blue and black paper Powerade cups are the only ones permitted at facilities during the games.

    Gay was upfront with his 31,000 Twitter followers about his plans to sneak the cat mug into MSG. He first tweeted a photo of the mug in front of a sign at MSG that read “Only NCAA Cups Allowed Beyond This Point.” Another shot showed the mug on a table next to the official NCAA paper cup.

     

    With only a few minutes left to go in the UConn-Michigan State game, a staffer approached Gay at courtside and asked for the mug.

    “I was asked if the Journal intended to cover the Final Four next weekend, and I said that, yes, I believed the Journal intended to cover the Final Four,” Gay wrote. “I still was hanging onto the idea that this whole thing was a joke. Then the cat mug was requested. As in, they wanted the cat mug.”

    Gay considered putting up a fight "because this cat mug is a protest of what I see as the hypocrisy of big-time college athletics in this country, where an urge to reap every possible dollar has undermined a beautiful endeavor." He surrendered it instead.

    The mug was returned after the game.

    The NCAA, which makes billions of dollars from corporate deals and from using players' names and likenesses on merchandise, has come under fire for their refusal to pay college athletes.

    A recent lawsuit by Northwestern University football players has challenged the NCAA's rules, and the National Labor Relations Board ruled last week that college athletes must be considered employees, in a decision that moves Northwestern players a step closer to organizing the nation's first college athletes' union.

    The NCAA has not yet responded to a request for comment.