Recently, California passed a state law which permits college athletes to accept money in exchange for the use of their name, image or likeness. However, the law, which will not go into effect until January 2023, does not require schools to pay their athletes directly.
As a result of California’s recent legislation, other states are considering enacting similar laws. As Dan Murphy of ESPN reported, lawmakers from more than a dozen other states have expressed interest in proposing similar laws or have already submitted proposals in recent weeks. For example, Florida state Representative Chip LaMarca, said he hopes to pass a similar law in Florida as early as 2020. However, some of the proposals include variations from the California law, such as schools paying athletes directly or setting up funds for them to pay for health care after their careers in college athletics are over.
Although these recent developments are beneficial to student athletes, it raises a dilemma for the NCAA regarding competitive balance and uniformity. Accordingly, the NCAA has acknowledged the need to modify its current rules, which prohibit student athletes from accepting money from outside sources. However, the NCAA prefers a nationwide rule rather than each state coming up with different variations.
Moving forward, former NFL Wide Receiver and current Ohio Representative Anthony Gonzalez, believes that a Federal Pay to Play Act is the best option for all involved. As reported by USA Today, Gonzalez wants to pass federal legislation, within a year, which would provide athletes with an opportunity to make money while also protecting them from those who do not have their best interests in mind. The former Ohio State player said “There are a lot of people who are trying to get a piece of the athlete who do not have their best interest in mind and are out for nefarious means.” However, he believes a uniform federal bill would be a step in the right direction.
Recently, Gonzalez has been discussing the concept with Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith, who is the co-leader of a group appointed by the NCAA to evaluate ways in which the Association could change its rules on name, image and likeness rights. Gonzalez will wait to draft his proposed legislation until after Smith provides the group’s recommendations to the NCAA Board of Governors, which is expected at the end of October.
Additionally, there is currently a federal bill related to name, image and likeness rights working its way through the legislature in Washington. Representative Mark Walker from North Carolina proposed changing the tax code to force the NCAA to allow players to make money from endorsements or risk losing its nonprofit tax exemptions. Gonzalez said he hasn’t spoken with Walker directly, but said he has had conversations with various members of Congress. However, Gonzalez wishes to pass legislation more beneficial than Walker’s, because he believes that bill does not currently include student athlete protections that are necessary.
In other words, the recent California legislation has created a domino effect and we are now seeing how other state representatives and the NCAA are responding. Fortunately for student athletes, there appears to be support for a federal legislation creating a uniform system of compensation. Gonzalez said he thinks he will be able to garner bipartisan support when he makes his proposal at some point in the next few months. Gonzalez may be just what the NCAA and current athletes needed given his unique perspective. Simply put, he understands the perspective of an athlete from his days playing wide receiver at Ohio State, however as a Representative for Ohio, he also has an appreciation for the macro perspective when considering this legislation. Accordingly, student athletes should be pleased that Gonzalez not only wants to provide compensation, but also emphasizes protecting the student athletes, which is a concept that has been neglected in the past.