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Federal Lawmakers Propose New Player-Pay Bill

September 25, 2020
 
 

Two United States congressmen and former college athletes introduced the Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act on Thursday, bipartisan legislation that would prohibit colleges from punishing athletes if they profit from their personal celebrity.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association and its divisions have been developing guidelines for athletes to be able to be paid for their name, image and likeness, or NIL, through third-party endorsements and sponsorships since October 2019. Several state laws have also been enacted that prevent colleges from penalizing athletes for such deals. But federal lawmakers believe the NCAA’s actions “will likely be incomplete” and not provide full NIL rights, and that the “patchwork” of state laws would create inconsistent standards, a one-pager and press release about the Level Playing Field Act said.

The bill was introduced by Representative Anthony Gonzalez, a Republican from Ohio and former wide receiver for Ohio State University’s football team, and Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri who played wide receiver for Murray State University. Three other Democrats and three Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have also co-sponsored the bill, the press release said.

“For far too long college athletes across the country -- many of whom are people of color -- have been denied the basic right to control their name, image and likeness,” Cleaver said in the press release. “What we wanted to do from the outset was come to a bipartisan consensus that puts forth a national framework that gives college athletes the same rights every other American in the country is already afforded. That’s exactly what this bill will do, and I’m proud we were able to put it together in a bipartisan way.”

The legislation “safeguards” amateurism in college athletics by disallowing institutions from directly compensating athletes, the press release said. It also allows an athlete’s college or university to bar them from deals with companies that sell tobacco products, alcohol, adult entertainment, marijuana or other controlled substances, or those that “promote gambling activities,” according to the bill.

A commission consisting of 13 members appointed by congressional leaders would also be created to suggest improvements to athletes’ NIL rights under the bill and help establish a process for settling disputes between athletes and their college or athletic conference, the bill said.

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