Tuesday Nick Saban commented for the first time about the relationship of current Alabama football players to T-Town Menswear store owner Tom Al-Betar.
“Our compliance people have been on top of this for a long time. I think this is an example of somebody…it’s not a violation if you sign a shirt for somebody, you just can’t receive compensation for it. We’ve done a cease-and-desist with this establishment a long time ago to make sure everybody understands what players can and can’t do.”
In now-deleted Facebook accounts, Al-Betar previously posted photos of Alabama football players signing memorabilia in his suit store - which is located three miles from the University of Alabama campus.
One of the football players depicted in those photos is current Alabama running back Trent Richardson, who can be seen in an Al-Betar photo signing an Alabama football print while wearing a suit jacket inside T-Town menswear.
Earlier Wednesday Clay Travis of OutKickTheCoverage.com posted a Dec. 14, 2010, photo showing a Birmingham mall kiosk.
At the time of the photo one of the items offered for sale at the kiosk was a Richardson-signed Alabama jersey.
On December 22, 2010, University of Alabama Associate Director for Compliance Mike Ward sent Al-Betar a cease-and-desist letter regarding the sale of memorabilia autographed by current Alabama football players at his kiosk outside T-Town Menswear. Excerpt:
I am writing to you on behalf of several current student-athletes at The University of Alabama. It has been brought to our attention that you are selling or distributing, for commercial purposes, items depicting current University of Alabama student-athletes, speciﬁcally, items autographed by current student athletes. The use of a current student-athlete’s name or likeness on commercial items offered for sale, or for advertising or promotional purposes, without his or her knowledge or permission can jeopardize the student-athlete’s eligibility to participate in intercollegiate athletics with the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The letter was addressed to Al-Betar’s kiosk in Tuscaloosa, not the Birmingham kiosk that was photographed on Dec. 14, 2010, selling jerseys of then-current Alabama football players Richardson, Julio Jones and Marcell Dareus.
That signed red jersey for sale at Al-Betar’s kiosk matched a Richardson jersey previously offered for sale by the website ViceAuthenticsMemorabilia.com.
The for sale listing for the Richardson jersey has since been pulled by the Alabama-based sports memorabilia website.
Jones can also be seen in Al-Betar Facebook photos inside T-Town menswear signing red jerseys that match the jerseys offered for sale at the Al-Betar Tuscaloosa kiosk targeted by UA compliance and the Birmingham mall kiosk in December.
The signed jerseys were offered for sale at Al-Betar’s kiosk and the Birmingham mall kiosk while Jones was still an active member of the Alabama football team.
Richardson can also be seen in a photo dated Sept. 3, 2010 on Al-Betar’s now-deleted Facebook page signing a white Alabama jersey with his name on it.
That signed white jersey matches a Richardson jersey previously offered for sale by the website ViceAuthenticsMemorabilia.com.
ViceAuthenticsMemorabilia.com noted in the listing for the white Richardson jersey for sale:
Jersey was signed in Tuscaloosa, AL on September 3, 2010
The for sale listing for the white Richardson jersey has since been pulled by the website.
Both for sale listings of Richardson-signed memorabilia from ViceAuthenticsMemorabilia.com also noted, “I have multiple signed prints, photos, helmets & jerseys of Trent.”
While the exact nature of Richardson’s relationship to Al-Betar is not known, Travis previously posted a photo of the two out to dinner in Tuscaloosa Jan. 23, 2010.
Speaking to ESPN 103.3 in Dallas Tuesday, Saban said of the interaction between Al-Betar and Alabama football players:
“You know, I guess I could ban our players from the place but until somebody can sorta convince me that somebody is doing something wrong, which I haven’t been convinced of yet, I don’t know if that’s fair to our players.”