On February 4, 2021, Senator Murphy and Representative Trahan proposed to Congress the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act. The bill suggests granting student-athletes unrestricted access to earning name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights, to allow student-athletes to organize through collective representation, and which cannot be limited by the university, conference, or National Collegiate Athletic Association. The Murphy/Trahan bill is just the newest addition to a round of federal, state, and NCAA proposals regarding collegiate athlete compensation rights.
In late July of 2020 the NCAA presented Congress with the Intercollegiate Amateur Sports Act, which proposed antitrust protection, preemption over state NIL laws, and control over all student-athlete compensation rules. Additionally, in June 2020, Senator Rubio introduced the Fairness in Collegiate Athletics Act, which also includes a preemption clause. An even earlier bill, the Student-Athlete Equity Act, was proposed by Representative Walker. The SAEA proposes amending the Internal Revenue Code so that the NCAA’s status as a non-profit organization would permit student-athletes to receive NIL compensation. In September 2020, Representative Gonzalez and Representative Cleaver proposed the Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act, which notably, includes restrictions on endorsements of products or services pertaining to drugs, alcohol, and gambling but does not prohibit conflicting institutional sponsorship agreements and an athlete’s NIL activities or include NCAA antitrust protection.
In December 2020, Senator Wicker proposed the Collegiate Athlete Compensatory Rights Act, which would prohibit the NCAA from restricting athletes’ NIL rights, requires that athletes complete twelve percent of their required credits for graduation, prevents conflicting student-athlete and institutional agreements, and provides NCAA antitrust protection. Most importantly, the bill would allow the Federal Trade Commission to establish an independent, private, entity to regulate and administer NIL rules.
Furthermore, six states have already passed legislation granting student-athletes’ name, image, and likeness compensation rights, while twenty-nine others are considering similar legislation, the earliest of which will take effect in July 2021, creating pressure for passing a uniform federal law at least by July 2021. If not, then student-athletes could be incentivized to attend the schools that already permit NIL compensation. Only time, or possibly the Supreme Court, will tell whether state or federal law will prevail.