A professional football player turned House lawmaker is pushing a bill to allow student athletes to be paid for the use of their names and likenesses.
The measure, which Gonzalez said will be unveiled in the coming months, would tie payments to the use of an athlete’s name, image, and likeness (NIL) without labeling student athletes as employees of their schools. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body of college athletics, currently prohibits students from receiving such compensation. The NCAA also bars athletes from hiring an agent or other representation.
Gonzalez said in a statement that “allowing student athletes to capitalize on” NIL opportunities can help the students, “the majority of whom do not receive full-tuition scholarships, to mitigate the financial pressures of attending college in the 21st century.”
Several members of the subcommittee voiced general support for some form of compensation rights for student athletes. But others said they were concerned about the impact it would have on college sports, which have long been treated as amateur competitions.
“On the one hand, we want to allow opportunities for students to benefit from their NILs,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said at the hearing. “On the other hand, we want to preserve the character and quality of the uniquely American phenomenon of college sports.”
State Action Draws In Senators
California opened the floodgates last year with a new law, set to go into effect in 2023, to ban universities and colleges from preventing athletes from gaining NIL compensation from third parties. Illinois, New York, and Florida have followed with their own legislative proposals, which would also allow the athletes to hire agents and other types of representation.
The NCAA is in the midst of developing its own set of reforms in response to the groundswell of state laws and pressure from ongoing litigation from university athletes. The organization’s amateurism rules have endured a series of legal challenges under federal wage, labor, and antitrust laws that haven’t succeeded in forcing fundamental change to allow student-athletes to be paid for their play as if it were work.
Emmert said the organization hopes to release its own recommendations on compensation policy changes by January 2021 with a preview of early ideas to be released in April—a timeline that some senators found unsatisfactory.
Emmert said a federal framework may still be necessary. “With ongoing serial litigation and NIL legislation pending in over half the states, we may need your help” to establish a nationwide framework, Emmert told the Senate panel in a statement. He has also met with senators on drafting a federal framework, a Senate staffer told Bloomberg Law.