Lawmakers weigh creating national standard for college athletes’ NIL

Washington, D.C. — College athletes help bring in billions of dollars for their schools and for athletics organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) but many players aren’t allowed to profit off their own name, image and likeness (NIL).

A Senate panel heard from athletics organizations Wednesday about the industry-wide push for a national NIL standard.

So far, 18 states have passed their own NIL laws and proponents of one federal standard argue it would give schools and students equal opportunities regardless of location.

“All athletes deserve to use their name, image and likeness from commercial endorsements and on social media,” said Mark Few, Men’s Basketball Head Coach for Gonzaga University.

“Money isn’t what matters most about NIL. It’s dignity,” said Michael McCann, Professor of Law and Sports and Entertainment Law Institute Director at UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law.

Athletics organizations said the patchwork of different NIL state laws hurts recruiting for schools and can leave students at a major disadvantage.

“They confuse rather than clarify the NFL landscape,” said NCAA President Dr. Mark Emmert. “This is why we are urging Congress to pass a single NIL standard.”

Witnesses cautioned though that any such national standard should focus on protecting the rights of students above all.

“The NCAA and its members do not need your protection,” said ESPN College Football Analyst Rod Gilmore. “The players do.”

Dr. Wayne Frederick, the President of Howard University and Chair of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s Presidents and Chancellors, also cautioned that a federal standard must protect smaller schools that don’t generate as much money from sports to ensure they can fairly compete and keep up with the cost.

“We strongly believe that guardrails must be established that would protect smaller colleges and universities as well as the student-athletes who are not well-positioned to earn compensation for their athletic pursuits,” said Frederick.

The panel also heard testimony about the need to make sure laws protect student-athletes who need medical coverage during on and off seasons.

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