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Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives are introducing a bipartisan bill on Thursday to address the ongoing fight over college athletes’ ability to make money from their name, image and likeness.
The measure from Reps. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., would enhance athletes’ opportunities in ways that would make some NCAA schools unhappy while stabilizing the name-image-and-likeness (NIL) issue for college sports officials in ways that may not please athlete advocates.
“There are things that everybody’s going to see that they like and some things that they wish were different,” Gonzalez, who played wide receiver at Ohio State and in the NFL, told USA TODAY Sports. “But I think that’s the sign of a good bill. And, frankly, that’s the hallmark of a bipartisan bill. It’s never everything that any one individual, or one group, wants. It’s always a collaboration.”
According to a copy of the bill provided to USA TODAY Sports, its “rules of construction” – or guidance related to the legislators’ intent – state that none of the bill’s provisions can provide the basis for an antitrust lawsuit. They also state that athletes who make endorsement deals will not be considered school employees.
While this may give the NCAA some comfort and athlete advocates concern, the antitrust wording is not as strong as the language in a bill introduced in June by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Rubio’s proposal would require the NCAA to make rule changes regarding college athletes’ ability to make money from their NIL but says “no cause of action shall lie or be maintained in any court” against the NCAA and/or schools regarding whatever new rules they adopt as a result of the legislation.
The NCAA has said it plans to loosen its NIL rules, with proposals set to come forward in October, votes to be taken at its annual convention in January 2021 and changes taking effect at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.
Under the Gonzalez-Cleaver bill, athletes would be allowed to have endorsement contracts and have representatives solicit and/or negotiate such arrangements. The bill also offers no prohibition against endorsement arrangements that would conflict with schools’ sponsorship agreements, but it bars boosters from providing “any funds or thing of value as an inducement for a student-athlete to enroll or remain at a specific institution.”
The bill’s only other restrictions on athletes’ NIL activities say that the NCAA or schools can prohibit deals with enterprises involved with tobacco, vaping, alcohol, marijuana, gambling or adult entertainment, and they can prohibit athletes from “wearing any item of clothing or gear with the insignia of any entity during any athletic competition or university-sponsored event.”