The NCAA’s Power 5 conferences’ proposed legislation governing name, image and likeness (NIL) is as many expected: filled with restrictions. According to a summary of the Power 5’s draft, athletes cannot sign endorsement deals until they complete their first semester of college, can be barred from entering into certain NIL ventures and must make public NIL contracts.
The first thing that jumps out there is that the legislation isn’t being proposed by the NCAA, but by the P5 conferences.
If that alone doesn’t indicate that the emphasis is no longer about maintaining the purity of the amateurism model, what follows should make it clear that the emphasis is about sharing as little from the pot of money collegiate sports generates as the P5 can allow.
In the first, NIL deals are delayed until an athlete’s second semester in college. The NCAA would also permit schools to prevent athletes from entering into endorsement agreements that “violate university standards or that conflict with institutional sponsorship agreements,” legislation reads. In the third policy, contracts that athletes enter with both agents and businesses must be disclosed to the public to help “prevent athletes from acting without sufficient information” while also ensuring that deals are not recruiting inducements.
NIL restrictions are at the heart of the debate over a universal bill governing athlete compensation. How aggressively do you regulate athletes’ NIL endeavors? The argument is a hurdle that both college leaders and lawmakers must cross. They are seeking a middle ground. Imagine athlete compensation as a football field: one end zone representing a full-fledged open market without restrictions, and the other a closed system of uncompensated labor. Amid the gulf between them, the NCAA is only moving so far from the latter system, according to the summary of legislation.
Dellenger goes on to say the proposals “… will likely trigger harsh pushback from athlete advocate organizations and some lawmakers who believe a Congressional NIL bill should be more player-friendly.”
And that really is the crux of the matter. Will Congress ultimately see this as simply a players’ rights issue or as an economic issue threatening the schools’ earning ability? It’s likely this will be a key tell in regard to that:
The Student-Athlete Equity Act of 2020 also requests from Congress a safe harbor and the preemption of varying state NIL laws, which were the impetus for all of this. “NCAA, conferences and institutions will not be subjected to inappropriate liability and preempts a patchwork of inconsistent state laws,” the act says.
Antitrust exemption is never far from their minds.