On Saturday, Rutgers senior captain Geo Baker made national headlines for responding to the NCAA March Madness Instagram account and comparing student-athletes lack of name, image, and likeness rights to “modern day slavery.” While Baker upset many with that comparison, his argument regarding NIL rights is an important one and his comments on social media brought this issue to light. I wrote in response to Baker’s comments here that he deserved respect and support for speaking out, which I stand by.
After Sunday’s 64-56 victory over Northwestern, Baker clarified his comments from the Instagram post and head coach Steve Pikiell spoke about his thoughts on the comments, as well as his conversation the two had about it.
First, here is what Baker said in regards to his initial comments on Saturday:
“That was the first time I’ve ever answered someone else on social media emotionally without thinking about what I was saying. If I could go back, I think I would definitely word it differently.”
“I’m extremely grateful for Rutgers. I’m extremely grateful for coach Pikiell, for the Rutgers community, for everybody here. It’s a great opportunity we have here, but that doesn’t mean that the system is perfect. That’s what I was trying to get to the point of. I think the core of what I said is true. My name, image and likeness is owned by someone else. That’s how I view it. I’m disappointed in the words that I used, but I think there is a bigger discussion that needs to be made. The headline was three words that was at the very end of very truthful facts. We are owned by someone else.”
“You see people with academic scholarships, they don’t have that problem. We work extremely hard for our scholarships. I’ve been working out for three hours a day since the sixth grade. I feel like everyone on our team earned our scholarships, but we’ve also earned our own name as well. I feel like thats opportunities for us that we deserve. I’m disappointed in my word choice, but I also feel that there is a discussion that needs to be made. I’m grateful for Rutgers, I’m grateful for everybody. I’m grateful for you guys. I’m grateful for the fans. I never wanted to make it seem like I wasn’t grateful for anyone. That’s not who I am as a person, I’ve never been that way. I still stand by most of what I said.”
Steve Pikiell spoke about Geo’s initial comments from Saturday and how he hopes he will handle things moving forward in the postgame interview session:
“Geo and I sat down, we had a great talk. I’m not a expert with social media and I don’t make it a habit to comment on our guys’ social media because there are so many postings it would consume my entire day.”
“We had a good talk. I really value Geo’s opinion on these subjects and the ideas that he is trying to address. I support all of our athletes. I have to guide them in their formative years, especially given this current climate that we’re in. I understand the challenges. The challenges of this season have been numerous. The challenges of COVID, social injustice, all the different issues that these guys are dealing with. I also understand the sacrifices they are making to be here.”
“We’re working to support our student-athletes in every way possible with some great constructive dialogue, that’s what we like to do. Geo has been a great representative of Rutgers. He’s been a world class kid. He’s been a really good student. He told me he wished he articulated his thoughts in a different manner, maybe on a different platform. That’s a serious discussion and not to respond to other posts. He’ll live and learn. That’s where we are as teachers. We look forward to him moving on from this experience and being a little bit more articulate in how he addresses these different issues.”
Rutgers is now 10-6 this season and 6-6 in Big Ten play. They’ll resume action Thursday night at the RAC against Minnesota (11-6; 4-6).