Two U.S. senators appear to be taking aim at NCAA even beyond image, likeness controversy

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Two U.S. senators taking an interest in the compensation and other benefits provided to college athletes met with NCAA President Mark Emmert on Capitol Hill Tuesday and said afterward they would like to hear from athletes and are interested in taking a federal legislative approach that may address issues beyond athletes’ ability to make money off their name, image and likeness.

California recently enacted a law that will allow college athletes in that state to be compensated for their name, image and likeness beginning in 2023. Legislators in nearly 20 other states have introduced similar bills or intend to. There has been legislation pending the U.S. House of Representatives since March that would have the same impact nationally as California’s law.

That has prompted concern from the NCAA about the existence multiple and differing laws around the issue. And it brought Emmert here to meet with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who have formed a bi-partisan working group to examine issues in college sports.

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who introduced the House bill, criticized Tuesday's meeting, releasing a statement that called it "an ignominious start" because it was with Emmert, "the chief apologist for an exploitative system and not with the student athletes that are being exploited."

Later, at an event here staged by the Aspen Institute, Walker said the NCAA has "refused" to arrange a meeting between him and Emmert, even though he has tried for one "multiple times."

Walker added that he met with a lobbyist for the NCAA last winter and was immediately asked: "What do you think you're trying to accomplish here?" He went on to say: "I have my doubts that the NCAA really has a desire to resolve this."

Also at the Aspen Institute event, Emmert said the NCAA Board of Governors — the association’s top policy-making group — recently formed a group of school presidents to answer the question of what exactly the NCAA wants from a potential Congressional legislative solution. The goal is to have specifics for the full board to discuss at the NCAA's annual convention in January.

The board members “want very much to have a model that protects the integrity of the recruiting process," Emmert said. "That probably means that it’s not the schools that are out there themselves creating these opportunities (for athletes) — that they’re truly organic, coming out of the marketplace, whatever that might look like. (Presidents) are interested in creating some framework around a group-licensing model whether it’s around video games or anything else that might create some novel solutions."

Under a group-licensing setup, the goal would be for all athletes to share in the revenue from a given source — for example, the royalties from a video game.

Emmert also said the NCAA has talked with “some folks” at the White House about this issue “and they don’t seem opposed to the idea” of Congressional legislation.