MS GOP ad appears to violate NCAA guidelines for using Rebel, Bulldog players

An email ad sent Tuesday morning by the Mississippi Republican Party appears to violate NCAA rules by using photographs of two student athletes.

The email, which solicits volunteers to help with the re-election effort for GOP Sen. Thad Cochran, also links to a YouTube video featuring Gov. Phil Bryant and what appears to be footage from NCAA games. But that video contains no overtly political message.

At the end of the GOP email, however, the party makes this plea:

"There are only 14 days until the midterm elections...and the momentum is on our side. Now, more than ever, we need your help!"From now until Election Day, the MSGOP will be phone banking on behalf of Sen. Cochran's campaign. Your involvement will help put Thad over the top and ensure Mississippi plays its part in creating a new, conservative Republican majority in the United States Senate.

"From now until the election, we will be hosting volunteers at the MSGOP office for phone banking sessions from 9am to 7pm. The MSGOP Headquarters is located at 415 Yazoo St. in downtown Jackson.

The NCAA's advertising and political guidelines say among the topics and entities that are, and are not, permitted to be associated with the NCAA or its events are:

Individuals, organizations or associations organized as a recognized not for profit, unless (1) the ad or association endorses a political candidate or party, or (2) the ad or association advocates a viewpoint on controversial issues of public importance. 

The email prominently features Ole Miss' Cody Prewitt and MSU's Jamerson Love.

Mississippi GOP communications director Bobby Morgan said he sent the email and didn't see a problem with it.

"I didn't create that graphic, I took it from the governor's Twitter page," he said. "It didn't create any controversy then, I don't think it should create controversy now.

"I think if you look at the email itself, the first part is just saying we're proud of our two flagship universities ... we're excelling in other areas besides football. At the very bottom, I think it's a separate message that, you know, listen, we're getting close to another election cycle, we want to make sure we're maximizing our efforts on behalf of the senator's campaign and so forth. I don't think people are connecting the two."

Earlier this year, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnel ran afoul of the University of Kentucky, which sent his campaign a cease-and-desist order for using a Kentucky basketball player in an ad.

Jordan Russell, a spokesman for the Cochran campaign said he had not seen it and directed questions to the party.

Cochran faces Democrat Travis Childers in the Nov. 4 general election.