NCAA to Let Athletes Profit from Names, Images
Reversing a long-standing policy, the NCAA has approved a rule to let players profit from their names and likenesses. The proposed change would enable student athletes to have the same opportunity to make money as other students, provided they make education a priority.
Like all players on the team, Penn State star wide receiver and kick returner KJ Hamler does not have his name on the back of the uniform. But thanks to a new rule approved October 29 by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), as early as January 2021, Hamler and other college athletes can profit from the recognition of their name, image and likeness.
The NCAA board has directed three separate divisions of the organization to consider how to update the rules in a way that still maintains a distinction between college and professional sports. The changes should ensure that student-athletes have the same opportunities to make money as all other students while maintaining the priorities of education and the collegiate experience. The rules should be “transparent, focused and enforceable,” and not create a competitive imbalance, the board said in a release.
“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” Chairman Michel Drake said on ESPN. “Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.”
The association held its final regularly scheduled meeting for 2019 in Atlanta. Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith and Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman presented recommendations to the board on how to modify the NCAA’s rules. Smith and Ackerman have spent the past several months spearheading a working group that was appointed to evaluate the issue.
The group commenced work in May in the wake of proposed legislation to make the NCAA’s endorsement rules illegal. In California, Democratic state Senator Nancy Skinner authored a bill that was signed into law in late September. That law will prohibit California schools from punishing their athletes for accepting endorsement money starting in January 2023.
However, Smith said the NCAA’s new rules would not follow the “California model” of a virtually unrestricted market. He said the working group would help sort out the details of how to implement new rules and that the NCAA would likely stay involved as the group in charge of regulating future endorsement deals.
U.S. Congressman Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican, proposed a bill to change the federal tax code in a way that could force the NCAA to give all student-athletes the right to sell their names, images and likenesses. The current proposal would create an unrestricted market for college athletes to seek endorsement deals. Walker said earlier this month that he hoped to bring his bill to a vote in early 2020, which could mean it would go into effect in January 2021.
Walker plans to continue moving forward with his proposed legislation to make sure the NCAA’s announcement this week turns into real action.
“We clearly have the NCAA’s attention,” he said.
More than a dozen states have expressed interest in creating laws similar to California’s in the past several months. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis voiced his support for a bill introduced in his state that could go into effect sometime next summer if passed in its current form.
Smith said that state and federal laws provided the NCAA with “a kick in the butt” to speed up discussions that had been occurring for several years. He said he did not know if the changes the NCAA ultimately decides to make will be enough to appease legislators who would like to see an unrestricted market.
Ramogi Huma, founder of the National College Players Association, said he viewed the October 29 announcement as a failure that doesn’t go far enough to show the organization is truly interested in supporting athletes.
“The NCAA has failed on this issue once again,” Huma said. “This is another attempt at stalling on this issue.”
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a Republican from Ohio and former college and professional football player, plans to introduce his own legislation in the coming months. Gonzalez talked to Smith about ways to install “guard rails” to avoid unintended negative consequences while making what Gonzalez considers to be some necessary changes.