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 (D-Mass.-03), a member of the U.S. House Committee for Energy and Commerce and a former college athlete, on Wednesday reintroduced legislation that would establish an unrestricted federal right for college athletes to market their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL). Two years after the NCAA was forced to adopt a policy that allows athletes to pursue NIL opportunities, the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act includes new provisions to allow international college athletes to market their NIL without losing their visa status, encourage negotiation between athletes and their colleges for the use of athletes’ NIL for promotion and media rights deals, and ensure colleges and collectives do not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, or participating sports in the facilitation of NIL deals.

“Giving college athletes the ability to make money off their name, image, and likeness was long overdue, and the past two years have transformed college sports for the better. The NCAA spent decades arguing against athletes’ right to their own NIL, so it should come as no surprise that colleges and athletic associations are now focused on how to take back control, hoping Congress will do it for them. This legislation would enshrine unrestricted NIL rights into federal law and ensure athletes are treated fairly and start getting their fair share,” said Murphy.

“The system of college sports is better for athletes today than it was two years ago,” said Trahan. “Rather than trying to turn back the clock, the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act addresses real issues in the current NIL landscape by strengthening athletes’ rights, addressing gender disparities in collectives, and closing the international athlete loophole. Congress should look forward – not backwards – for policy solutions that prioritize athletes who have long been denied a voice in a billion-dollar industry built on their talent and hard work.” 

Specifically, the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act would:

  • Establish an unrestricted federal right for college athletes and prospective college athletes to market the use of their name, image,  and likeness -- 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
  • Protect athletes' ability to retain representation as they see fit, including lawyers, agents, and collective representatives (i.e. players associations) while prohibiting the NCAA or conferences from regulating athlete representation
  • Ensure colleges and affiliated NIL collectives do not discriminate by gender, race, or sport in the facilitation of NIL deals along with requiring collectives to register with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and report the NIL deals they have facilitated so athletes and stakeholders asserting discrimination have all the information they need to address it
  • 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
  • Allow international college athletes to market their NIL in the same ways their non-immigrant peers can without losing their F-1 visa status, including in the case that athletes become employees of their schools and/or athletic associations
  • Require colleges and athletic associations to obtain a group license from athletes for using their NIL for any type of promotion, including via a media rights deal, and notify athletes of how their NIL was used along with how much revenue those deals generated, helping athletes negotiate with colleges, conferences, and the NCAA for their fair share of the revenues they produce
  • 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 (FTC) to levy "unfair or deceptive practice" penalties.

During March Madness, Murphy urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to help international college athletes exercise the same rights to their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) as their non-international teammates without fear of losing their lawful status as students at American colleges. Murphy also wrote an op-ed in USA Today warning that college sports will destroy itself if it doesn’t get proactive about reform.

A unanimous Supreme Court, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, and states across the country have emphatically recognized the right of college athletes to share in the economic freedoms that are the bedrock of the American Dream.  At present, the United States Congress stands alone as the only governmental institution contemplating NIL legislation that will deprive over half a million college athletes the full measure of economic freedom currently enjoyed by our peers and every other American. For the past two years NIL has enabled college athletes, like me, to become small business owners, taxpayers, support the families that raised us, contribute to charities, and re-invest in the communities that we represent. My lived experience with NIL is why I wholeheartedly support Senator Murphy, Congresswoman Trahan, and the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act. This legislation codifies our NIL rights, preserves the economic progress that we have already made, and aligns the United States Congress with college athletes on the right side of history,” said Chase Griffin, QB, UCLA Football and two-time National NIL Athlete of the Year.

"We support Senator Murphy and Representative Trahan's efforts to advocate for all college athletes by addressing the unique implications of NIL policy based on race, gender, and nationality.  We support the opportunity for all athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness and we must ensure that student-athletes are protected and informed of their fair share," said Stef Strack, Founder of VOICEINSPORT - a Sports Advocacy Platform.

"Women-athletes, like me, are at our highest earning potential during our collegiate careers, thus it is imperative that NIL policy upholds the integrity of Title IX and informs us of our fair share. Additionally as a student-athlete of color, it is crucial that all athletes are protected regardless of their race or nationality," said Sydney Moore, Division 1 Volleyball Player at Cornell University & Advocate Program Lead at the VOICEINSPORT Foundation.

"The College Athlete Economic Freedom Act is a laudable first step in protecting athletes’ economic and other rights from being illegally restrained and restricted by the NCAA. For over 100 years, athletes have been unilaterally restricted in what they can earn or accept in the marketplace while literally everyone else, including all non-athlete students, are allowed to bargain for and accept their fair market value. Even though the United States Supreme Court has made it clear that the NCAA is not above the law, the NCAA is still operating as if it is, by continuing to restrict and restrain the economic rights of athletes. The College Athlete Economic Freedom Act would take athletes an important step closer to achieving what everyone else already has, full economic rights in this multi-billion dollar industry. I applaud Senator Murphy and all those that are working to protect athletes from being unlawfully restrained," said Jay Bilas, Attorney and Basketball Broadcaster, former Duke University basketball player.

Full text of the bill is available here.

A one-pager of the bill is available here.