By: William Nash

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The payment of collegiate athletes for their roles within their universities has been a heavily debated topic throughout the United States, and on Tuesday, October 29th, 2019, a substantial step was made in that direction.[1] The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) made a statement that collegiate athletes will now be able to profit off of their names, images, and likenesses.[2] The NCAA making this change, allows for student athletes, who are not being paid anything past the cost of attending their university, to now profit off their own personal brand or celebrity.[3] Allowing student athletes to profit from their names, images, and likenesses (NILs) is a substantial change from the previous athletic climate that had been present for so long in the United States.[4]

There are many critics of the NCAA’s current amateurism model, which has focused on student athletes being completely restricted from any financial benefit of their commercial value on the field or off it.[5] The amateurism model denies student athletes of any compensation, but allows for the universities, coaches, and the NCAA itself to generate billions of dollars in revenue.[6] The NCAA claims that their collegiate model “enhances the educational experience of college athletes, who are fully integrated into universities’ academic communities and enjoy greater academic success than regular students,” although many critics have begun to see differently.[7]

An abrupt change of heart from the NCAA policy didn’t seem feasible in the near future, but state legislatures have put political pressure on the NCAA to “pick up the pace” regarding their policy.[8] The first, and largest, threat to the NCAA came when the state of California enacted the Fair Pay to Play Act in September of this year.[9] The Fair Pay to Play act prohibits California colleges from denying student athletes of their NILs.[10] There has been extensive support for the Fair Pay to Play Act because of the benefits it hopes to bring student athletes.[11] A study conducted pursuant to the Act discovered that an astonishing majority of Division-I football players are currently living below the poverty line.[12]

Afterward, numerous states have moved to adopt similar policies, gathering a multitude of support from legislatures all across the political spectrum.[13] Rep. Mark Walker (R., N.C.) even proposed a bill that threatened the NCAA’s amateurism tax status.[14] The new idea has been an easy one for both sides to adopt because many believe that profiting off of NILs isn’t just for the benefit of an athlete, but a basic human right.[15]

Many analysts believe the new change in policy by the NCAA will bring numerous benefits to student athletes as well as collegiate sports in general, while others don’t believe there will be a substantial difference.[16] One anticipated benefit is the enhancement for female collegiate athletes.[17] Because female athletes will be able to profit off of their NILs, they will be able to “grow their personal brand during their college careers, [and] the NCAA will actually open possibilities for more women athletes to maximize their earning potential through sports.[18]

While this announcement by the NCAA is a large step in a politically popular direction, the NCAA has not yet formally stated the exact rules governing NILs and college athletes.[19] Only a continued study of NILs and college athletics will prove the actual opportunities and if benefits truly do follow this change.

image source: https://www.sportingnews.com/us/ncaa-football/list/college-football-rankings-pre-preseason-top-25-2019/1r65demw2tmtf1wd2epbfnfmk9

[1] See Thomas Baker, 5 Issues to Keep an Eye on With the NCAA’s New NIL Policy, Forbes (Nov. 1, 2019, 11:40 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbaker/2019/11/01/examining-the-ncaas-evolving-nil-policy-keep-an-eye-on-the-following-issues/#317461467591.

[2] See Dan Wolken, How the Game Changed in College Sports: ‘It’s like Lighting a Fuse,’ USA TODAY (Nov. 12, 2019, 6:00 AM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/dan-wolken/2019/11/12/ncaa-how-name-image-likeness-debate-quickly-shifted/2522382001/.

[3] See Greta Anderson, NCAA Votes for Athlete Payment, Inside Higher Ed (Oct. 30, 2019), https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/10/30/college-athletes-permitted-be-paid-name-image-likeness.

[4] See Dan Wolken, How the Game Changed in College Sports: ‘It’s like Lighting a Fuse,’ USA TODAY (Nov. 12, 2019, 6:00 AM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/dan-wolken/2019/11/12/ncaa-how-name-image-likeness-debate-quickly-shifted/2522382001/.

[5] See Thomas Baker, 5 Issues to Keep an Eye on With the NCAA’s New NIL Policy, Forbes (Nov. 1, 2019, 11:40 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbaker/2019/11/01/examining-the-ncaas-evolving-nil-policy-keep-an-eye-on-the-following-issues/#317461467591.

[6] Id.

[7] See Richard M. Southall, The US Collegiate Model of Intercollegiate Athletics: Questioning National Collegiate Athletic Association, LawInSport, https://www.lawinsport.com/sports-law-events/seminars/24-the-us-collegiate-model-of-intercollegiate-athletics-questioning-national-collegiate-athletic-association-ncaa-hegemony.

[8] See Tim Sullivan, Lawmakers Forcing Slow-Moving NCAA to Pick up the Pace of Change, USA Today (Oct. 10, 2019, 9:06 AM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/college/2019/10/10/ncaa-amateurism-model-being-pushed-change-legislation/3928243002/.

[9] See Thomas Baker, 5 Issues to Keep an Eye on With the NCAA’s New NIL Policy, Forbes (Nov. 1, 2019, 11:40 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbaker/2019/11/01/examining-the-ncaas-evolving-nil-policy-keep-an-eye-on-the-following-issues/#317461467591.

[10] See Isabella Borges, Fair Pay to Play Act: End of Amateurism?, Golden Gate L. Rev. Blog (Oct. 14, 2019), https://digitalcommons.law.ggu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1065&context=ggu_law_review_blog.

[11] See id.

[12] See id.

[13] See Dan Wolken, How the Game Changed in College Sports: ‘It’s like Lighting a Fuse,’ USA TODAY (Nov. 12, 2019, 6:00 AM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/dan-wolken/2019/11/12/ncaa-how-name-image-likeness-debate-quickly-shifted/2522382001/.

[14] See Thomas Baker, 5 Issues to Keep an Eye on With the NCAA’s New NIL Policy, Forbes (Nov. 1, 2019, 11:40 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbaker/2019/11/01/examining-the-ncaas-evolving-nil-policy-keep-an-eye-on-the-following-issues/#317461467591.

[15] See Dan Wolken, How the Game Changed in College Sports: ‘It’s like Lighting a Fuse,’ USA TODAY (Nov. 12, 2019, 6:00 AM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/dan-wolken/2019/11/12/ncaa-how-name-image-likeness-debate-quickly-shifted/2522382001/.

[16] See Thomas Baker, 5 Issues to Keep an Eye on With the NCAA’s New NIL Policy, Forbes (Nov. 1, 2019, 11:40 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbaker/2019/11/01/examining-the-ncaas-evolving-nil-policy-keep-an-eye-on-the-following-issues/#317461467591.

[17] See Isabella Borges, Fair Pay to Play Act: End of Amateurism?, Golden Gate L. Rev. Blog (Oct. 14, 2019), https://digitalcommons.law.ggu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1065&context=ggu_law_review_blog.

[18] See Thomas Baker, 5 Issues to Keep an Eye on With the NCAA’s New NIL Policy, Forbes (Nov. 1, 2019, 11:40 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbaker/2019/11/01/examining-the-ncaas-evolving-nil-policy-keep-an-eye-on-the-following-issues/#317461467591.

[19] See id.

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