WASHINGTON, D.C. – A lawmaker urged the National Basketball Association (NBA) on Wednesday to repeal its requirement that players be at least 19 years old and a year out of high school before entering the league, calling the restriction unfair.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., sent identical letters to NBA commissioner David Stern and union leader Billy Hunter, asking that they scrap the requirement in the next collective bargaining agreement.
Cohen, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, called the requirement “an unfair restriction on the rights of these young men to pursue their intended career.”
In an e-mail, NBA spokesman Tim Frank said, “We are looking forward to receiving, reviewing and responding to the congressman’s letter, as we always do.”
Stern has said he would be interested in raising the minimum age to 20 although he was happy the way the current rule was working. The current agreement runs through 2011.
“We anticipate that the age limitation issue will be front and center during collective bargaining negotiations, and we look forward to the opportunity to revisit the change to the rule that was made in 2005,” players’ association spokesman Dan Wasserman said.
In a telephone interview, Cohen told The Associated Press that he would consider both hearings and legislation if the requirement remains.
“I don’t think it makes any sense. It didn’t hurt Al Kaline to go straight to the Detroit Tigers,” he said, referring to the slugger who broke into baseball at age 18. Cohen noted that athletes in other sports, such as baseball, tennis and golf, do not face such a restriction.
In the letter, Cohen said the requirement “does far more to serve the financial interests of the universities at which the students play than the educational interests of the students themselves.”
He suggested that the policy might have contributed to scandals involving players in his city of Memphis, citing former University of Memphis star Derrick Rose and current Memphis Grizzlies player O.J. Mayo.
Rose, who led the Chicago Bulls to the playoffs and won the Rookie of the Year this season, has come under a cloud cast by an NCAA investigation of violations at Memphis during the only season he played there.
Mayo played for one season at the University of Southern California and finished runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award this season. Louis Johnson, a former associate of Mayo’s, has told federal and NCAA investigators that Floyd gave $1,000 in cash to a man who helped steer the star player to the Trojans, according to Johnson’s attorney, Anthony V. Salerno.
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in Los Angeles contributed to this report
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