In Episode 2, we revealed that many major universities have unconstitutional policies, gagging the rights of student athletes, and telling them that they cannot speak publicly without first getting permission.
This flies in the face of the First Amendment.
Monday, the University of Utah not only doubled down on their bad policy, but took it an extra step further, warning members of the press covering Utah Athletics that if they reach out to players without first asking permission, they could face “sanctions up to and including revocation of credentials.”
In addition, Utah tells reporters that the rule applies to “their family members,” and that reaching out even though social media is prohibited.
“Full compliance with the above policies is a requirement for access and credentials to cover Utah Athletics. Access and credentials may be revoked for violation of stated policies” the email states.
This is, almost certainly, unconstitutional, according to Brechner Center Director Frank LoMonte.
Employees of public agencies have repeatedly challenged bans on unapproved contact with the news media — and they’ve won every single time, going back to a 1946 case against the New York City Fire Department. More than 20 times, federal judges have struck down government policies, like the one just circulated at Utah that tells public employees they can’t speak to journalists without approval.
But athletes likely have even more rights than ordinary state employees since college athletic departments and the NCAA have fought successfully in the courts to make sure athletes are not legally classified as employees.
If it’s not legal to gag employees from giving interviews, then it’s certainly not for athletes, LoMonte said.