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College Athletes Could Cash in This Summer as NIL Fever Hits Capitol Hill

Last Updated: May 21, 2021
Congress is “closer than ever” on landmark legislation to allow college athletes to profit off their name, image, and likeness.

As individual states continue to act, a sweeping name, image, and likeness (NIL) law that could usher in a whole new era of college athlete empowerment is finally taking shape at the federal level. Lawmakers remain tight-lipped about the finer details, but there’s more than just hope on the horizon for amateur athletes to soon start cashing in on themselves.

With a handful of individual states’ bills expected to go into effect on July 1, US senators are reportedly hard at work on bipartisan legislation that would open the floodgates for amateur athlete compensation across the country.

It’s happening. After decades of debate, college sports are finally going to share the wealth.

Preaching Patience Amid Progress

Word of productive talks among lawmakers comes only a few weeks after NCAA president Mark Emmert announced he would be open to allowing players to engage in endorsement, sponsorship, and licensing deals.

The NCAA, which has been under fire for years for its increasingly ridiculous stance on student athlete amateurism, is also working to establish its own national guidelines

However, NCAA officials have warned that there will undoubtedly be some complexities with how the new bylaws intertwine with those state laws — ultimately calling on Congress to work towards sweeping coast-to-coast legislation before individuals states’ own laws go into effect.

“The inherent issue with the NCAA is its bylaw changes that were drafted don’t go as far as some of the state laws, so you’re still going to have tension around state laws and NCAA rules,” Greg Sankey, commissioner of the SEC, told the New York Times.

But given the pace of progress on Capitol Hill, the feds may be able to beat the individual states (and the NCAA itself) to the punch.

Not only have several US senators been in “deep negotiations” on bipartisan legislation but there’s also a proposed bill already circulating on Capitol Hill, reports Sports Illustrated.

While details of what will be included in the final draft of legislation are still unclear, the clock continues to tick toward the July 1 deadline.

And some states are ready to go right now.

Schools Prepare as State NIL Laws Take Shape

On May 18, Maryland became the latest state to enact new laws governing compensation for college athletes set to go into effect on July 1, joining Florida, Georgia, Alabama, New Mexico, and Mississippi.

Their new law allows student athletes to sign various types of endorsement deals, sponsorships, and paid influencer arrangements. Interestingly, it also bars the NCAA from denying those opportunities to athletes.

In Florida, meanwhile, schools have already started to prepare for what’s coming.

Some colleges have formed special committees designed to understand the new rules, which are meant to allow student athletes to earn “fair market value” for their NIL and hire agents, among other details. However, clarifying the letter of the law is only one way that schools across the country are preparing for this brave new world. Some have hired “personal brand coaches,” while others actively consider how they can compensate their alums for their accomplishments as amateurs.

But despite all the preparations, some school officials still have questions.

Miami athletic director Blake James chuckled when asked about how all this ultimately plays out.

“Market value for one person versus another? I think that’s going to be a real challenge, because I think it’s going to open up a lot of other possibilities for questions and lawsuits,” he said via 247Sports.

When July 1 rolls around, will we be stuck with handful of states each with their own individual laws filled with confusing stipulations that are likely to end up in court? Alternatively, will there be a universal NIL law passed by lawmakers on Capitol Hill that allows all student-athletes nationwide to get paid? And what will the NCAA try to do to mess everything up?

Congress, you’re on the clock.

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