Ex-Athlete, Now Congressman, Ready to Suit Up Against the NCAA

On September 30, 2019, it was reported that California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law the Fair Pay to Play Act. Previously, we have reported that the bill will allow student-athletes at the 58 member schools within California to receive compensation for the use of their name, image, and likeness.

Within days of  Newsom signing California’s Fair Pay to Play Act, U.S. Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, of Ohio, announced his intention to propose a federal bill to give student-athletes the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image, and likeness. Gonzalez, an ex-Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver, plans to introduce this legislation to give student-athletes a “clear chance to make money while also setting up some way to protect [student-]athletes from ‘bad actors.’”

Gonzalez believes that “people who [will try] to get a piece of the [student-]athlete who do not have their best interest in mind and are out for nefarious means” should be a pause for concern. In addition to student-athletes receiving some form of benefit for the use of their name, image, and likeness, there should be “guardrails” in place to protect the student-athletes. Gonzalez wants to “provide necessary and deserved benefits while not inviting a bigger problem alongside” the benefit.

This past May, the NCAA president and board of governors appointed a working group made up of all three NCAA divisions to examine the recent federal and state proposals to provide student-athletes with compensation for use of their name, image, and likeness. The group was not charged with drawing up concepts that can be “construed as payment for participation in college sports,” but rather provide a solution while maintaining the “demarcation between professional and college sports.” The group is expected to announce its findings to the NCAA board of governors later this month. Gonzalez plans to wait for this announcement prior to introducing legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina introduced a bill this past March titled the Student-Athlete Equity Act. The bill is in review with the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. He hopes the committee will advance the bill forward. Walker’s bill plans to revise the tax code to “force schools to allow student-athletes to make money from endorsements or lose their non-profit exemptions.” Gonzalez has spoken with members of Congress about Walker’s bill, but he has yet to speak with Walker.

Gonzalez believes a national law is the best way to move forward to avoid potential problems. Gonzalez said “federal law would take precedent over state laws . . . [and will help] avoid confusion for young athletes who may take each state’s new proposed approach” because student-athlete pay is not “workable on a state-by-state approach.”

As more student-athlete compensation bills are being introduced in the states, Gonzalez hopes to provide a bill that will apply nationally.

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