The bipartisan Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act introduced last month by sponsoring U.S. Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri) would provide federal oversight on Name, Image and Likeness (NIL).
According to an article by Dennis Dodd in the NCAA Football section of the CBS Sports website, the NCAA has asked Congress for an antitrust exemption, while also trying to retain some control over being able to define amateur status. This bill would not provide that exemption, which would protect the NCAA from lawsuits over NIL.
Action on the federal level seemed required after at least 20 states have considered or passed NIL laws, including Florida, Colorado, and California. Florida’s law goes into effect on July 1, 2021. Because the federal law would supersede state regulations, the NCAA sees a nationwide rule as the best chance to avoid a patchwork of regulations varying from state to state.
If enacted as written, the bill would be overseen by the Federal Trade Commission and would address NIL concerns surrounding recruiting rules, preventing boosters from providing inducements to athletes to enroll. Penalties would be civil, rather than criminal, but they would still be subject to federal enforcement.
Athletes would be able to sign sponsorship deals directly with school apparel sponsors, as well as competing sponsors.
The Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act would also establish an independent body to resolve disagreements between athletes, schools, and the NCAA. Known as the Covered Athletic Organization Commission, it would be staffed by Athletic Directors, coaches, conference administrators, players, and other interested parties.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has sponsored legislation in the Senate as well. “The Fairness in Collegiate Athletics Act (FCAA) seeks to level the playing field and would allow student athletes to seek professional representation, as well as require the NCAA to protect the students from nefarious actors.”
According to Sen. Rubio’s website, the FCAA would require intercollegiate athletic associations, including the NCAA to set up rules for student athletes to be compensated for their NIL by third parties by June 30, 2021. The law, if enacted, also says, the NCAA must set forth, processes that allow student athletes to obtain professional representation in matters related to NIL, subject to protections under the Sports Agent Responsibility and Trust Act. It would also require student disclosure at the time of agreement and at the time of payment to both their university and the NCAA in a clear, uniform way. It would also preserve athlete’s amateur status and ensure appropriate recruitment of prospective student athletes while preventing “boosters” from recruiting or retaining students. The FCAA also would preempt state laws based on NIL, provide safe harbor for implementing its policies, and authorize the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the rules under statutes relating to unfair or deceptive practices.