A bill allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness as soon as 2022 received first-round approval in the House.

The proposed bill would allow athletes at Kansas colleges and universities to sign with an agent or enter into endorsement deals once they are at an institution. As student-athletes, they would not be compensated directly by the university for their play but they could capitalize on their talents and the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) outside the school.

Kansas is currently one of about 35 states considering similar legislation to bills already passed in several states. California passed the Fair Pay to Play Act which is set to be effective Jan. 1, 2023. The NIL Bill passed by Texas is set to become effective July 1, 2019. Other states that have passed similar laws include Colorado, Nebraska and New Jersey.

“Other states are enacting similar legislation to this … so this keeps Kansas institutions on a level playing field until federal legislation is adopted,” said Rep. Susan Humphries, R-Wichita.

NCAA Anti-Trust Ruling

For years the NCAA had strictly resisted any pay for student athletes with a strict rule that stripped any athlete of his eligibility if they, among other things, got an agent, entered a professional draft after enrollment or accepted compensation in any form in their sport.

However, in response to a recent lawsuit brought against the NCAA, the courts ruled the NCAA’s restriction on players’ ability to receive pay for use of their NIL is an unlawful restraint on trade prohibited by the Sherman Antitrust Act. It was this ruling that started the race among states to get their own law passed to make sure their state’s collegiate teams were able to competitively recruit blue chip athletes.

Potential Federal Law

With multiple state poised to grant NIL rights to student athletes, the federal government and the NCAA began considering a uniform body of laws regulating NIL rights compensation. In addition to benefiting college athletes, uniform regulations would benefit the NCAA, allowing it to regulate compensation for NIL rights in a uniform fashion, rather than on a state-by-state basis.

In turn, the NCAA could help maintain competitive fairness in college athletics. Companies would have the opportunity to sponsor players across the country — not just in those states that passed NIL rights legislation — allowing them to maximize profits generated through student-athlete endorsement deals.

So far, nearly a half-dozen bills have been introduced in congress in support of student athlete compensation, including a bill introduced in February by Kansas Senator Jerry Moran, The Amateur Athletes Protection and Compensation Act of 2021.

Sen. Cory Booker, who also introduced an NIL bill, believes Congress won’t start moving on a bill until this spring or summer. However, the pressure put on the NCAA by Florida’s bill gives Congress room to negotiate with the NCAA.

“Now we have leverage because (colleges) are facing a threat to their revenue model. It gives me a chance in my position in the Senate, along with a lot of great Senate partners, to say we are not going to settle these issues unless you make a commitment to the health and safety of our athletes,” Booker said.

Kansas Bill

The Kansas Bill passed the House after a first reading, but not without opposition. Rep. John Carmichael (D-Wichita) argued the bill failed to include necessary safeguards for financial equity between men and women or even between different sports. He also theorized it could lead to noncompliance with NCAA rules and thus result in issues with athlete or school eligibility.

Carmichael was concerned the bill had not been thoroughly vetted. “The problem that we have before us is we want to pass legislation that is not ready for primetime because we want to make sure that the Jayhawks and the Wildcats and the Shockers have a good recruiting season,” Carmichael said.

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