WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and U.S. Representative Lori Trahan (MA-03), a member of the U.S. House Committee for Energy and Commerce and a former college athlete, on Thursday introduced legislation that would allow college athletes to make money off their Name, Image, and Likeness. The College Athlete Economic Freedom Act specifically lifts restrictions on how college athletes make money off their talent.
"I love college sports, but it's time to admit that something is very rotten when the industry makes $15 billion a year and many athletes can't afford to put food on the table or pay for a plane ticket for their parents to see them perform. Big time college athletics look no different than professional leagues, and it's time for us to stop denying the right of college athletes to make money off their talents. If predominantly white coaches and NCAA executives can have unfettered endorsement deals, why shouldn’t predominantly black athletes be afforded the same opportunity? The legislation Representative Trahan and I are introducing today provides unrestricted rights for college athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness by signing endorsement deals, running camps, or other means. It's simple: this is about restoring athletes' ownership over the use of their own names and likeness. They own their brand, not their school or the NCAA. Giving students a right to make money off endorsements is just one part of a much broader package of reforms that need to be made to college athletics, but it's a good start,” said Murphy.
"As a former Division I athlete, I'm all too familiar with the NCAA's business model that for decades has utilized the guise of amateurism to justify obscene profitability while student athletes have struggled to get by. As leaders at the NCAA finally come to grips with the need for change, it's important that Congress enact reforms to establish and protect student-athletes' right to be compensated for the use of their name, image, likeness, or athletic association. The College Athlete Economic Freedom Act will do just that, and I'm proud to introduce this bicameral legislation with Senator Murphy," said Trahan.
"We support Senator Murphy's efforts to advocate for all college athletes by addressing the unique implications of NIL policy on collegiate female-athletes. We support the opportunity for all athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness. We must ensure that NIL policy is universally beneficial without negatively affecting women's sports and compromising the integrity of Title IX. It is necessary and possible that NIL legislation adopt measures that protect female-athlete opportunity in sport,” said Stef Strack, Founder of Voice in Sport—a Sports Advocacy Platform.
“COVID-19 has proven how college athletes are anything but amateur. College sports generates $15 billion every year for everyone except the athletes actually playing the game. It’s slave labor in a downright dictatorship,” said Draymond Green. “Everyone wants to pay lip service to the issue, but few like Chris Murphy are part of the solution. I’ve seen firsthand just how backwards the NCAA’s likeness restrictions for college athletes are and how myself and my teammates struggled to make ends meet. Murphy’s legislative proposal will be game-changing for the players, and I commend him for leading the way on this important issue.”
“Senator Murphy and Congresswoman Trahan have laid a necessary marker down with the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act in ensuring athletes have the same economic rights as literally everyone else, including every other student. In order to pursue education and their chosen field of endeavor, the field of athletics, athletes are treated differently than all other students: they are restricted by rule as to what they can earn or accept in the marketplace. No other student, on scholarship or not, is subject to an industry wide wage restriction. I believe that is profoundly unfair, especially in light of athletes’ roles as primary revenue drivers in this multi-billion dollar industry. It is past time to remedy this unfair treatment, and the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act goes a long way toward righting these historic wrongs. I commend Senator Murphy and Congresswoman Trahan on this thoughtful and comprehensive approach to providing athletes with the same economic rights and protections as everyone else,” said Jay Bilas, Attorney and Basketball Broadcaster, former Duke University basketball player.
Specifically, the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act would:
· Establish a federal right for college athletes to market the use of their name, image, likeness, or athletic reputation -- individually and as a group -- by prohibiting colleges, conferences, and the NCAA from setting or enforcing rules that restrict this right or otherwise colluding to limit how athletes can use their NIL, including by setting rules restricting this right for prospective college athletes;
· Protect athletes' right to organize to maximize their NIL opportunities through a collective representative, such as a college athletes association, to facilitate group licensing agreements or provide legal representation without interference from colleges, conferences, or the NCAA;
· Protect athletes' ability to retain the legal or agency representation needed to fully exercise their NIL rights and prohibit the NCAA or conferences from regulating athlete representation;
· Assert robust enforcement for violations by colleges, conferences, or the NCAA in restricting athletes' NIL rights, notably through asserting per se antitrust penalties, a private right of action for athletes to pursue civil action against violators, and authorizing the Federal Trade Commission to enact "unfair or deceptive practice" penalties;
· Ensure equitable opportunities for college athletes to market their NIL by asserting that institutional support by colleges, conferences, or the NCAA for NIL opportunities is made available to all college athletes, along with commissioning a market analysis of NIL monetization with recommendations for improving opportunities across race, gender, and sport; and
· Set a national standard on athletes' NIL rights by preempting more restrictive state laws.
Last week, Murphy published an op-ed in Yahoo Sports on the ways in which COVID-19 have exposed the inherent inequities in college sports and lays out the legislative ideas to allow for college athletes to make money off their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL), as well as provide collective bargaining rights for college athletes.