More States Advance Bills on College Athlete Endorsements

By: - June 4, 2021 12:00 am

Ohio State University Athletics Director Gene Smith discusses his support for legislation that would allow athletes at Ohio colleges to earn compensation through endorsements and sponsorship deals based on their names, images and likenesses. Andrew Welsh-Huggins/The Associated Press

Earlier this week, Illinois lawmakers passed a bill that would allow college athletes in the state to profit from endorsements, sponsorships and autographs. If Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the bill, Illinois would become the sixth state to begin allowing such deals on July 1. Lawmakers in several other states are still racing to catch up.

“You see coaches making money, you see the administration is making money and the student-athletes are the ones that are filling the stands, but they’re not able to go and make any substantial monetary gains,” state Sen. Napoleon Harris, a Democrat and former college football player, told the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois lawmakers voted just days after Texas passed its own name, image and likeness (NIL) bill, which also would take effect July 1 if signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican.

On Thursday, the Oregon Senate passed an NIL bill with the same start date. The Connecticut House advanced a similar measure this week, as celebrated UConn Huskies women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma said his team would be “at a huge disadvantage” for recruiting without the endorsement opportunities soon to be available in rival states.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Louisiana appear poised to finalize an NIL bill, with legislators in Ohio, New York and other states still pushing their own measures.

The flurry of legislation comes as state lawmakers have lost faith that Congress or the NCAA will establish a national standard. With just weeks before some states begin allowing endorsements, many schools and lawmakers fear losing top recruits to rivals and see NIL bills as a way to keep their teams competitive.

“It is clear that for Texas to remain a powerhouse in collegiate athletics, we need to pass a Texas plan,” state Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Republican who sponsored his state’s bill, said in a news release. “Texas risks losing our best recruits as they seek opportunities elsewhere.”

College athlete advocates say the bills are a long overdue change that will allow students, many of whom are people of color, to finally profit from the massive revenues they bring to their schools.

But as states pass bills with varying rules and start times—and the NCAA appears poised to issue its own rules that could conflict with state laws—observers say the landscape will be chaotic and confusing for schools and athletes.

“It really just is a mess at this point,  ” Maddie Salamone, a lawyer, athlete advocate and former college lacrosse player, told Stateline last month. “It’s still pretty unclear what is going to happen.”

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on college athlete compensation, but much of the conversation focused on COVID-19 safety issues, USA Today reported. Members of Congress are divided on whether an NIL bill should include antitrust protections for the NCAA, a dispute that threatens to stall efforts to reach a consensus before July 1.

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Alex Brown
Alex Brown

Based in Seattle, Alex Brown covers environmental issues for Stateline. Prior to joining Stateline, Brown wrote for The Chronicle in Lewis County, Washington state.