Senate Democrats Propose College Athletes Bill of Rights

HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 12: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Texas Southern University's Health and PE Center on September 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls were chosen from the larger field of candidates to participate in the debate …
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A group of Democrat U.S. senators submitted a bill this month that would set federal rules for allowing student-athletes to make money from the college sports careers.

Democrat Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris Murphy (Conn.) and others, introduced what they call the College Athletes Bill of Rights to force states to observe nationalized rules on how students would earn money from jersey sales, endorsement deals, or sales of products based on their images, slogans, and likenesses, ESPN reported.

“It is long past time that the NCAA should have acted on these issues,” Sen. Booker said in a statement to ESPN. “I’m looking for legislation to obligate the universities to have rules that protect athletes.”

Democrats and the NCAA have worried that the few states that have passed laws governing student promotional deals might conflict with each other and that an “uneven playing field” could occur in the resulting confusion.

States that have passed laws to govern deals based on names, images, and likeness (often called NIL legislation) include Michigan, California, New York, Arizona, and others. The bills were filed around the same time that the NCAA approved a motion last October to allow students to make money off their college sports careers.

The bill the Democrats introduced — which must be acted upon by July 21, 2021 — would allow students to enter into licensing deals with minimal restrictions, ESPN said. The bill also bans penalties for students who change schools, requires schools to more fully report their sports revenue, and creates a commission to advocate for the students and make further suggestions for legislation.

“There are way too many millionaires working in the college sports industry that don’t want to share their fortune with 19- and 20-year-olds,” Sen. Murphy said. “…They’re not going to move. They’re going to fight athlete compensation for as long as it takes. They’re just in denial that college football and college basketball is professional. They still think that it’s 1954. It’s not.”

There is some bipartisan support for doing something about the NIL issue.

While Republican Sen. Rand Paul (KY) is not a signatory to the bill, in 2017, he did suggest that college athletes might be allowed to sign licensing deals that would pay them after they finish college as a way to address the current issue.

But, as ESPN noted, not all politicians in D.C. feel that the federal government needs to interfere in college sports.

“I think Congress can handle the NIL issue, [but] if we open it up to every issue that exists in college sports, I don’t think we’ll make it better,” he said. “I think we’d probably make it worse.” Congressman Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) told ESPN.

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