If Manziel allegations are true, it's hurting more than his reputation

Of course Johnny Manziel was at least tempted to turn his signature into cash. His Mercedes probably needed shinier rims. And, hey, those beers and Tim Tebow jerseys don’t pay for themselves.

ESPN reported Sunday that the NCAA is investigating whether Johnny Trouble signed hundreds of autographs and photos in January for a five-figure fee. If he did and gets suspended, it will pour kerosene on the already raging debate regarding amateurism vs. exploitation.

Unfortunately for the crowd that believes big-time college football players are being taken advantage of, they couldn’t have a worse “Exhibit A” than Manziel.

The Texas A&M quarterback doesn’t need the cash. His family has a small fortune from Texas oil, as detailed in Wright Thompson’s ESPN piece. Paul Manziel bought his son a black Mercedes because, well, Johnny wanted one.

In other words, this is not a player saying he can’t afford a winter coat. Or Terrelle Pryor telling Sports Illustrated he sold Ohio State gear so his mother could pay her utility bill.

If the allegations are true, this is more evidence that Manziel is a spoiled, reckless, ungrateful kid who doesn’t give a lick about his school, teammates or coaches. And, for that matter, his own reputation.

He was a borderline NFL prospect before this. Now? Do you think NFL teams want their on-field leader – the quarterback – to be a punk with an arrest record and a drinking habit? A 20-year-old who hired a high school buddy to be his personal assistant? A kid who crashes a University of Texas fraternity party but can’t show up on time to fulfill his obligations for the Manning Passing Academy?

Maybe one day Manziel will realize that receiving a scholarship, room and board, athletic gear and access to professional training (and Pell Grants) is a pretty good deal. It’s not perfect, and I’d like to see athletes compensated for jersey sales and the use of their likeness in video games.

Maybe one day Manziel will realize he needs football – not the other way around.

tgreenstein@tribune.com

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

CHICAGO