NCAA to Allow Athletes to Receive Benefits:   What’s Next?

Dear Commons Community,

When Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed a law last month granting college athletes in the state the right to profit from their name, image, and likeness, a wave of elected officials in other states began introducing their own legislation or announcing their intention to do so.

In response, the NCAA issued a statement on Wednesday, that will allow college athletes to receive “benefits” from their name, image, and likeness as long as the regulations around those benefits fit within the “collegiate model.”  By issuing this statement, the NCAA hoped it could quell the growing state-by-state movement for change, which various NCAA officials have spoken out against over the past month.  Fifteen states presently are proposing legislation similar to California.  As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Mark Emmert, the NCAA’s president, even admitted after Tuesday’s meeting of the NCAA Board of Governors that the various state laws had spurred its response.

“There’s no question the legislative efforts in Congress and various states has been a catalyst to change,” Emmert said after the meeting, at Emory University, in Atlanta. “It’s clear that schools and the presidents are listening and have heard loud and clear that everyone agrees this is an area that needs to be addressed.”

Jeff Bridges, a Democratic state senator and co-sponsor of Colorado’s bill, said he was “proud of the pressure that we helped build” on the NCAA. “It looks like we won,” Bridges said of the fight to allow athletes to generate compensation for their labor. “And it’s about damn time.”

But neither Bridges nor any other lawmaker who has proposed legislation said that they intended to retract it in light of the NCAA’s statement. In fact, many indicated the next step was the exact opposite: keeping up the pressure.

“I take them at their word that they’re going to change the rules,” said Marlon Kimpson, a Democratic state senator and co-sponsor of South Carolina’s bill. “But we can’t retreat until we see something in writing that fairly encompasses what these players are entitled to.”

He added that all the NCAA has provided so far is a news release with some “clever wordsmithing,” but nothing substantive about carrying out a new policy. Many lawmakers raised concerns over the NCAA’s lack of specificity in its statements, and several said that “the devil is in the details” now.

Nolan West, a Republican in the Minnesota House and sponsor of that state’s bill, said in a written statement that the organization should clarify what it means by “benefit.” Hunt, who campaigned on legislation to compensate athletes, said she had seen nothing in the statement that suggested the NCAA would expand existing benefits, all of which are tethered to education through scholarships or the like. And Dan Miller, a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and co-sponsor of the bill in his state, took issue with the insistence that any benefit be “consistent with the collegiate model.”

The collegiate model arose around the turn of the millennium, and was described by the former NCAA president Myles Brand as “a term of art.” It was meant to supplement the age-old idea of amateurism. Richard M. Southall and Ellen J. Staurowsky wrote in their paper “Cheering on the Collegiate Model” that the NCAA had created the collegiate model as a new definition of amateurism that “isolates the principle to the way in which student-athletes are viewed without imposing its avocational nature on revenue-producing opportunities.”

Essentially, the collegiate model allows the NCAA and institutions to collect revenue while preventing athletes from doing the same.

As such, Miller thinks the debate at hand is a definitional one that cannot be solved in the framework of the collegiate model. “It is tough to say that there is no difference between an ‘amateur’ over-30 basketball league and using ‘amateur’ to describe college sports,” Miller said. “We are still dealing with an anachronistic use of terms to describe a multibillion-dollar industry.”

Regardless, Hunt described the NCAA’s statement as a “first step” but said that the NCAA still must be proactive instead of reactive in addressing college athletes’ rights to their name, image, and likeness.

NCAA officials are “starting to see the writing on the wall that a lot of other states are bringing legislation,” Hunt said. “They’re going to have to make a decision and not stall, but actually do something productive.”

This issue will dominate collegiate athletics for the near future. 



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