On Monday, the NCAA suffered a huge loss when the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of former college athletes in a dispute about player compensations. The discussion about compensation for college athletes has been ongoing for years. While that ruling does not allow for student-athletes to be paid for their name, image, and likeness, it does require the NCAA no longer limit the educational-related expenses schools can offer student-athletes. It also declined the NCAA’s request for exemption from the normal operation of antitrust laws, stating that “the NCAA s not above the law.”
The ruling has sparked a larger conversation on if this is the beginning of major changes to the NCAA model and, ultimately, a move towards paying student-athletes. With seven bills covering compensation, and the name, image, and likeness (NIL) of athletes moving through Congress right now, that assumption is not unreasonable. Monday may have been the beginning of a series of losses the NCAA will suffer over the next few years.
Here is an overview of each NIL bill in Congress and how they will positively or negatively affect student-athletes if they are passed.
The College Athletes Bill of Rights, introduced on Dec. 18, 2020, and sponsored by Sen. Cory A. Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL-9), is by far the most comprehensive bill covering NIL. If passed, it will radically change the lives of current college athletes, recently ineligible athletes, and graduated athletes.
Pro - Athlete Endorsements: Athletes will be able to take part in endorsement deals with third parties even if they conflict with the deals associated with their schools, as long as the athlete engages in the endorsement outside of mandatory team activities. Also, athletes can specifically wear the footwear of their choice during mandatory team activities. This ruling on footwear is big because it opens up the door to stronger endorsement deals for athletes than any other bill currently working through Congress. The key here is that athletes can pursue endorsements without punishments like losing scholarships or playing time.
Pro - Revenue Sharing: The bill also states that intercollegiate athletic associations will be required to distribute commercial sports revenue royalties to covered college athletes. There is more verbiage in the bill about who is covered athlete and the percentage of the NIL revenue.
Pro - Additional medical expense coverage: In addition, under the commission to be formed after the passing of this bill, there will be a medical trust fund to cover athletes out of pocket expenses relating to sports relating injuries for up to five years after they become ineligible to play. This aspect of the bill will also cover sports-related medical conditions diagnosed after their career, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), as well as costs associated with second opinions sought after by college athletes.
Pro - Greater rights to educational outcomes: Student-athletes will be able to maintain their scholarship even after their eligibility is complete as long as they keep good academic standing and a GPA over 2.20. In addition, employees and volunteers under the athletic department cannot influence student-athletes on selecting their academic work. Finally, to ensure athletes are given the freedom over their academics, academic advising and tutoring will no longer be in the hands of the athletic department but will be provided by the university.
This bill is sponsored by Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT) and Rep Jamaal Bowman (D-NY-16) and was first introduced to the Senate on May 27, 2021, and in the House on Jun. 16, 2021.
Pro - Student athletes would be seen as “employees”: This bill finds that student athletes currently face unfair labor practices by the NCAA and its member institutions. Student athletes meet the criteria and markers of the term “employee” under the common law definition. This bill calls for an amendment to the National Labor Relations Act to include that student athletes who received any form of compensation from their school, which includes grant-in-aid, and are required to participate in intercollegiate sports, would be seen as employees.
Though this is not mentioned explicitly in the bill, if student athletes are seen as employees instead of amateurs, this may open the door for athletes to make money from endorsements and other contracts.
Pro - Establish collective-bargaining for student athletes: Once student athletes are seen as employees, it opens the door for collective bargaining, allowing student athletes to seek representation to negotiate their wages. This could also lead to the creation of a players union for college athletes though unions are not mentions in this bill.
Now that we’ve covered those two bills, the others should be much simpler to get through.
This bill is moving through the House and Senate and is sponsored by Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT) and Rep Lori Trahan (D-MA-3) and was introduced on Feb. 4, 2021.
Pro - NIL rights without changes to grant-in-aid: Grant-in-aid means a scholarship, grant, or other form of financial assistance that is provided by a college or higher education institution to a student-athletes as the pursue their degree.
Con - Eligible entities: Eligible entities for sponsorship are limited to businesses inside the United States.
This bill is sponsored by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and was introduced to the Senate on Feb. 24, 2021.
Pro - Athlete endorsements to current student-athletes
Pro - Enter the draft and keep eligibility: This allows for athletes to declare for the draft, and as long as they have not received compensation from teams, agents, etc., they will be able to declare their intent to resume participation as a collegiate athlete as long as they notify their university no later than seven days after the draft.
Pro - Providing grant-in-aid to former student-athletes turned pro: This will allow schools to provide full grant-in-aid to athletes who did not complete their undergraduate degree due to pursuing a career in professional sports.
Pro - Additional medical expense coverage: Out of pocket expenses for injuries that came about during their college athletic career will be covered up to the deductible for up to two years after their amateur status has expired. This also includes the cost of seeking second opinions.
Pro - Creation of a corporation: The creation of the Amateur Intercollegiate Athletic Corporation is good because it takes the execution of this bill out of the hands of schools.
Con - Athletic endorsements to recruits: Yes and recruits. Unfortunately, the bill has no explicit rules around at what time during the recruiting process, but for now, I think it’s best to only introduce endorsements to current college athletes. You have to crawl before you walk.
Con - Athletes must provide endorsement documentation: College athletes and recruits will be able to enter into endorsement deals but must provide a copy of the endorsement contract to their university. I see one big problem with this. If the schools are not considered part of the endorsement negotiation, why would athletes be required to provide them with their contracts? To me, it’s like signing a contract with a company and then giving a copy of your contract to a co-worker. No one does that. If the information is provided to a commission that oversees NIL for that specific university, sure, pass over the contract for compliance and transparency. If that is not the case, this is another excuse for schools to dig their hands too far into the pockets and privacy of their athletes.
This bill is sponsored by Rep Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH16) and was originally introduced on Sep. 24 2020 and again on Apr. 26, 2021.
Pro - Athlete endorsements to current student-athletes
Pro - Creation of a commission: The creation of the Covered Athletic Organization Commission is good because it takes the execution of this bill out of the hands of schools.
This bill is sponsored by Sen. Roger F. Wicker (R-MS) and was introduced on Dec. 10, 2020.
Pro - Social media compensation: The bill explicitly outlines social media compensation in its language around NIL for student-athletes.
Pro - Protection of athletes from rescission of agreements: If an athlete no longer participates in a college sport, the athlete can rescind a NIL agreement. This is true as long as the remaining term is greater than one year. Canceling the agreement under these terms will ensure the athlete is not be held liable for a contract breach and no obligation to return the payments received before the notice.
Pro - Student-athlete health and safety committee: This committee will develop standards to help prevent serious injury or abuse of student-athletes.
Con - Provided educational resources with respect to covered compensation: This is problematic because all educational resources should be covered regardless of covered compensation, not in consideration of it
This bill is sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and was first introduced to the Senate on June 16, 2021.
Pro - Athlete can receive compensation from a third party
Con - Athlete must report compensation to institution
As you can see, all of these NIL bills currently in Congress are working to ensure athletes can be compensated through endorsement deals or through wages without interference from their universities. Many of them also allow for athletes to hire proper representation without losing the scholarship or grant-in-aid. With that said, some bills are more comprehensive bills than others. Likewise, some bills have more aspects that benefit athletes than others.
While each of these bills will be refined and negotiated in Congress, there is a lot at stake for both student-athletes and the NCAA. If any of these are passed, they will significantly change the landscape of amateur sports and it is important to know these are pieces of legislation our government is currently refining.