NAICU Washington Update

Senate Holds Hearing on Name, Image and Likeness

September 18, 2020

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing this week examining whether college athletes should be allowed to benefit financially from the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL).
Committee Chair Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) opened his comments stating that the amateur model of collegiate athletics is worth preserving.  Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) opposes paying student athletes, saying allowing them to make money from NIL would be a huge mistake. Both Senators referenced their own experience as college athletes, as well as raising policy concerns, including the effects on team dynamics, Title IX and eligibility for need-based student aid. 
Ranking Member Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) indirectly supported the notion of NIL by pointing out shortcomings in collegiate sports, including racial, safety and educational disparity.
Three of the four witnesses who testified would like Congress to write legislation to address NIL nationally rather than have schools deal with a hodge podge of state legislation. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) warned that those who support federal intervention should be careful what they ask for, saying the NCAA should write the rules and govern collegiate sports. The witnesses also told the committee how the many sports teams balance each other noting that two sports, football and men’s basketball, provide financial support for all other sports. They also supported the idea that student athletes are part of the student body and should not be classified as employees.
Five states, California, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, and New Jersey have passed NIL laws. A number of others are considering legislation. Members of Congress in both the House and Senate are working on NIL legislation, however, no action is likely this year. Meanwhile, the NCAA is working on modifying its rules on NIL.

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