NCAA still awaiting Congress for Federal College Track and Field Bill –

WASHINGTON — A House subcommittee on consumer protection and commerce held the first Congressional hearing on name, image and likeness on Thursday since June. Much has changed since, from state laws that came into effect in July, to the United States Supreme Court’s unanimous decision against the NCAA in the Alston case, to the college sports governing body implementing a policy provisional NIL and envisioning much broader changes to its structure and role. .

But what did not come is federal NIL legislation. And as NCAA President Mark Emmert made clear during the hearing, his organization is still waiting for that cadre to come from Congress.

“We need a federal solution that sets out basic protections for college athletes,” said Emmert, one of only two witnesses to testify in person, in his opening statement. “The patchwork of state laws has left varsity athletes subject to different sets of standards than their peers in neighboring states. “

Witnesses including Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, and CIAA commissioner Jacqie McWilliams answered questions from the subcommittee, as did Washington state golfer Cameron March, who spoke about his own experience asking the NCAA for waivers to develop an app, which threatened his eligibility before the NIL rules changed.

As per the NCAA interim mandate, schools in 20 states without NIL laws were allowed to develop their own policies as long as they did not violate NCAA prohibitions. The subcommittee lobbied witnesses for the past three months, while college athletes were allowed to earn money by endorsement, with Massachusetts Rep. Lori Trahan bluntly asking Emmert if NIL had started to bring about the “extinction” of varsity athletics, as predicted by the NCAA. in his argument against athlete compensation. (Emmert deferred the blame for the “resistance” and “concern” about the NIL to NCAA member schools, adding that with proper guardrails in place, he believes the NIL may be “just the opposite. “of the end of university sports).

Witnesses were also asked what they wanted – and, in Emmert’s case, what they did not specifically want – in a national law.

The NCAA has expressed a desire for federal legislation that expressly prevails over the current multiplicity of state NIL laws, described by Emmert and several lawmakers as a “patchwork”. The NCAA, a national organization, has no authority over state laws and has been unwilling to challenge the legality of the state’s NIL statutes in court. Emmert further expressed a long-held NCAA position that the rules governing college athletes must protect against a payment system for play and recommended a “transparent clearing house mechanism, not the NCAA, to disclose NIL transactions while ensuring student confidentiality as well as college integrity. sport template.

As noted in the committee’s briefing, the NCAA is also seeking an antitrust exemption, which would allow the organization and its member schools and conferences to work together – critics would say “get along” – by passing rules that restrict the freedoms of individuals. athletes in NIL activities.

The NCAA’s desire for an antitrust exemption is also motivated by lawsuits brought by current and former players (House vs. NCAA). These lawsuits claim that the NCAA and its members violated Section I of the Sherman Act by agreeing to ban NIL opportunities for college athletes in recent years. Players also charge that they should have been paid for their appearances on game shows. If these lawsuits are successful, the potential monetary damages to the NCAA and its members could be enormous. An exemption contained in a federal NIL statute could be made to help the NCAA defeat the litigation.

It is equally important for the NCAA to ensure that college athletes maintain their non-employee status, which flies in the face of the NLRB General Counsel’s statement this week that college athletes should be recognized as employees under the national labor relations law. Although Congressional authority over the workplace classification of college athletes at public universities is uncertain – public universities are governed by state labor laws – a federal law that declares college athletes not to be employees would help the NCAA maintain the current system.

Asked by Trahan, a former Division I volleyball player and vocal critic of NCAA practices, whether he supports legislation that is “as pro-athletic as it gets,” Emmert said he has it. fact, although the definitions of the expression pair probably diverge considerably. Trahan applauded the NLRB’s “long-standing” position that some college athletes are college employees, which the NCAA has long had opposite.

“The scales in varsity athletics have been tilted so drastically in favor of all who have not been an athlete for so long, one of the reasons we have come up with the path we are doing is that we are less concerned with ‘Going too far in the sense of empowering athletes rather than not giving them enough, “Trahan said at the hearing, pushing back on Emmert’s plea for” proper “guardrails.

Trahan said she shared many of the sentiments expressed in Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion in Alston earlier this summer, in which he widely and strongly berated the NCAA’s idea of ​​amateurism and questioned its entire business model.

Ranking member Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) Has repeatedly urged Congress to act quickly, expressing fears that the continued “dropout” continues to negatively impact college athletes. It has been more than two years since the first federal NIL bill was proposed by former Representatives Mark Walker and Cedric Richmond. Several additional bills have since been introduced, many dealing with additional rights and protections beyond the scope of athlete compensation, but Congress has yet to step in and no NIL bills have yet to come. been voted.

Despite the massive budget items on Washington’s base this week, Congress is still considering possible legislation, with four bills introduced in this session.

-A bill introduced by Trahan and Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy offers virtually unlimited rights for athletes to enjoy the NIL, but also recognizes athletes as employees, ensuring their ability to organize through ‘collective representation as a professional association, and prohibiting sports associations and schools from regulating athletic representation. (Murphy and Trahan were also among a group of Senators and Democratic representatives who introduced a separate college athletics reform bill that would recognize college athletes as employees and thereby grant them the right federal government to engage in collective bargaining).

-Rep. Anthony Gonzalez and Emanuel Cleaver reintroduced their bipartisan bill this term, which would also establish national NIL rights for varsity athletes and provide oversight through a commission appointed by Congress that operates independently of schools and their associations. athletics. Gonzalez, a former Ohio state football player and one of the most vocal advocates for college athlete rights on the Hill, recently announced that he would not stand for re-election in 2022.

– Kansas Senator Jerry Moran’s bill, in addition to securing a national standard for NIL rights, would address issues such as transfers, college project eligibility policies, and reimbursable medical expenses. While trying to prevent college athletes from being classified as employees, it would establish a corporation, or “clearinghouse,” to run and regulate NIL.

– Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot, who played college football at William and Mary, introduced legislation to create a crown corporation that operates under the FTC to regulate the NIL by overseeing agents and third-party licensees of athlete publicity rights, creating a universal online network. database and banning inducements, a concern that has surfaced in most, if not all, of NIL Congressional hearings.

All of the bills would set federal parameters for the NIL, but it is not clear whether states with NIL statutes wish to cede their new authority to the federal government.

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