This editorial ran in the Sunday edition of the Kansas City Star on July 11, 2021.
Intercollegiate athletics are a staple in American culture and higher education. No other country in the world has a college sports model that compares to ours and provides thousands of young adults the opportunity to leverage their athletic ability into a quality education. But the college sports we know and love, and the opportunities it provides student-athletes, are in jeopardy.
As college athletics have grown into a billion-dollar industry, the rules surrounding athlete compensation have not kept pace. To remedy this problem, 24 individual states so far have taken it upon themselves to create laws that will guarantee amateur athletes the ability to profit off of their name, image and likeness — the students’ NIL rights — without fear of being reprimanded.
With 12 of those state laws and executive orders having gone into effect on July 1, the NCAA voted on the evening of June 30 to suspend its rules related to student athlete compensation, allowing student-athletes to benefit off the use of their name, image and likeness no matter which state they compete in.
While this is a step in the right direction, it’s not a long-term solution.
Intercollegiate athletics are an inherently inter-state matter. Our intercollegiate model makes certain the best teams and the best athletes compete against one another no matter their geographic location. This requires a single, federal standard that everyone can operate under.
In the absence of a federal standard, we will continue to see states introducing or updating their student-athlete compensation laws each year to gain advantages in attracting athletes to their institutions.
College athletics are changing, and while these changes are overdue, without a clear federal standard, we risk harming the entire college athletics model.
The pandemic has already demonstrated that when athletic revenues decrease, programs are cut. Many schools’ athletic programs already operate at a deficit each year, and any negative economic impact to college athletics will send ripple effects through the system that could be detrimental to thousands of college athletes. Every change we make must be thoughtful to preserve the opportunities for all athletes, including those in non-revenue generating sports.
Congress should have acted before July 1 to create a federal standard, but, as happens too often in Washington, D.C., that deadline has come and gone with no results.
Congress must still work to find a compromise to both empower amateur athletes through compensation, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of our one-of-a-kind collegiate model that has provided millions of young athletes the opportunity to receive a quality education. We can accomplish both of these goals and provide college athletics with the certainty it needs to continue flourishing.
In February, I introduced the Amateur Athletes Protection and Compensation Act — my proposal to accomplish this necessary balance. My legislation would create a single set of guidelines that would enable amateur athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.
My legislation, crafted with athletes, schools and conferences, offers not only the quickest, but the best path towards enacting meaningful federal legislation on the issue of college athlete name, image and likeness.
The NCAA’s decision to lift restrictions on NIL compensation has helped bring temporary relief for states operating without individual legislation on these matters, but this won’t prevent states from adjusting their state laws to make their college athletic programs just a little more lucrative to attract student-athletes.
Congress must act to make certain that each student-athlete and every college and university has a consistent set of rules to protect college sports, while offering student-athletes greater opportunities to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness.