Congress weighs national standards for college athlete NIL deals

WASHINGTON D.C. — The name, image and likeness (NIL) rules have changed the way college athletes are allowed to profit off their play with endorsement deals.

A 2021 Supreme Court ruling found the NCAA’s previous ban on letting college athletes sign NIL deals was against the law, paving the pay for college players to earn from their performance.

But the rules for navigating this process are still unclear and members of Congress are now weighing how to craft national standards for college player NIL deals.

“The lack of uniformity across different states and different institutions has created confusion and uncertainty and a federal standard is needed so all athletes are playing by the same rules,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), during a House subcommittee hearing last week.

“College sports have generated enormous wealth but that wealth has not been uniformly distributed,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). “Those most responsible for the creation of that wealth, the players, have yet to receive their fair share of the pie.”

Lawmakers heard from Trey Burton, a former NFL player and former college athlete.

“We are now seeing athletes not only being able to profit off their name, image and likeness, but also off business ventures, endorsement deals and marketing opportunities which I ten years ago never had the chance to do,” said Burton.

Burton urged Congress to establish a clear set of rules for colleges to follow, no matter how big or small the school or program.

“We have an opportunity with NIL to ensure that the business deals benefit student athletes rather than harm them or set them up poorly in the long run,” said Burton.

Lawmakers heard firsthand testimony about how the Supreme Court NIL ruling is already benefitting college players.

“As an Olympic sport athlete on a partial scholarship, NIL has been extremely beneficial to me because I’m able to help pay for my tuition to hopefully come out college with little debt,” said Kaley Mudge, a Florida State University softball player.

College athletics representatives urged Congress to also require transparency with any NIL legislation.

“Without disclosures, institutions and student athletes are not able to properly assess NIL opportunities for fairness and equity,” said Pat Chun, Director of Athletics for Washington State University. “By shielding accurate and required transactional information, third parties have profited from the uninformed decisions of student athletes.”

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