Two senators have introduced a bipartisan bill that would reform college sports rules regarding name, image, and likeness to regulate contracts and institutions’ activity.
The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) has faced criticism in the past for prohibiting players from profiting off of the use of their names, images, and likenesses (NILs) when used by teams — leading to a Supreme Court case, NCAA v. Alston, in 2021 where these rules were unanimously struck down.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama have introduced a bill that would create standard rules nationwide regarding NILs across collegiate sports, per a press release from Manchin’s office on Tuesday.
“Student athletes should be able to take advantage of NIL promotional activities without impacting their ability to play collegiate sports,” said Tuberville, who identified himself as “Coach,” referring to his previous career as a college football coach, per the press release. “But we need to ensure the integrity of our higher education system, remain focused on education, and keep the playing field level. Our legislation with Senator Manchin will set basic rules nationwide, protect our student-athletes, and keep NIL activities from ending college sports as we know it,” he added.
The bill, known as the Protecting Athletes, Schools, and Sports (PASS) Act, would require third parties — such as advertisers and sporting goods companies — to enter a contract with colleges or universities before offering NIL contracts to players. It would also ban NIL contracts that induce players to transfer to other institutions, with violations being subject to penalties by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The bill would also require all sporting agents to register with the FTC as well as require that athletes complete “their first three years of academic eligibility” before being able to transfer without penalty, according to the press release. For players, who often risk injury when playing contact sports, the bill mandates that institutions provide eight years of health insurance to players after graduation from a four-year college program.
“As a former college athlete, I know how important sports are to gaining valuable life skills and opening doors of opportunity. However, in recent years, we have faced a rapidly evolving NIL landscape without guidelines to navigate it, which jeopardizes the health of the players and the educational mission of colleges and universities,” said Manchin in his press release.
Other provisions of the bill include improvements to the financial literacy curriculum, enabling players to better understand NIL contracts and requiring a standard contract form for all NIL deals.
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, the NCAA suspended its NIL rules until Congress passed legislation on the matter.
Several collegiate sports leaders supported the PASS Act upon its announcement, including NCAA President Charlie Baker, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts, as well as the “Big 12 Conference” and the Southeastern Conference, two athletic conferences comprising universities with prominent sports teams.
“[T]here are some challenges facing college sports that only Congress can address,” Baker said.
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