SportsPulse: Dan Wolken doesn’t mince words as to the real reason universities and conferences are going to bend over backwards to make a college football season happen this fall. And it has nothing to do with wins and losses.
The National College Players Association, an advocacy group for student-athlete rights, asked members of Congress in a letter sent on Thursday to “pursue broad-based reform” instead of adopting into law bills that would preempt any state-level compensation for student-athletes, according to a copy of the letter provided to USA TODAY Sports.
“College athlete name, image, and likeness pay is the smoke that hovers above the raging fire of injustices at the core of NCAA sports,” wrote Ramogi Huma, the association’s executive director. “College athletes’ economic, academic, and physical well-being continue to be consumed by an insatiable greed and a mentality that treats players as property rather than people.”
The letter comes after Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced a bill that would require the NCAA to make rule changes regarding athletes’ ability to make money from their name, image and likeness, or NIL, while giving the association protection from legal challenges to the new regulations.
The bill, which sets a deadline for the NCAA to establish a new setup no later than June 30, 2021, would supersede NIL laws passed by state legislatures in California, Colorado and Florida, and grant the NCAA wide latitude to decide which types of endorsement deals to allow.
The NCAA would be able to make rules “as are deemed necessary,” including to “prevent illegitimate activity with respect to any third party seeking to recruit or retain student athletes … including any third party” that has “a prior or existing association, either formally or informally” with a school or that has “a prior or existing financial involvement with respect to” college sports.
The legislation passed in California and Florida — the Florida bill is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2021 — would allow athletes to have agents or lawyers help them secure NIL deals.
Addressed to several members of a bipartisan Senate working group and other high-ranking members of Congress, the NCPA letter asked lawmakers to decline “narrow and unjust NIL legislation” that “sacrifice college athletes’ freedoms so that NCAA sports can pretend that competitive equity exists.”
“Federal legislation is not necessary to preserve college sports or ensure college athletes gain NIL compensation freedoms,” Huma wrote. “For instance, Congress can prevent NIL agreements from being used as inducements to lure high school recruits and college transfers to a particular college. It can ensure that colleges do not directly arrange NIL deals for their athletes. Congress does not need to give the NCAA an antitrust exemption to accomplish these things.”
Rubio’s bill, which would be named the Fairness in Collegiate Athletics Act, was not cosigned by any Senators in the working group.
In a statement released last week, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said that legislation related to NIL “should put college athletes first, not the financial interests of schools.”
“So we need to be really careful to not simply put the fate of athlete endorsement deals in the hands of the NCAA and its rulemakers, who haven’t shown much historical interest in putting the interests of kids ahead of the interests of athletic programs.”
The NCPA letter also raised issues “that are much more important than NIL compensation,” such as health and safety standards, instances of sexual assault, the treatment of injuries and the rising number of COVID-19 cases that have hit college campuses in the wake of the NCAA allowing the resumption of team activities this month.
“If NCAA sports is willing to sacrifice the health and safety of their college athletes, their families, and communities, it can surely withstand inconveniences that allow college athletes economic freedoms associated with NIL compensation,” read the letter.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg.
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