So, logic emerged at yesterday’s Senate hearing where Mark Emmert made his plea for an antitrust exemption for the NCAA.
Sen. Mike Lee, who chairs the Senate’s subcommittee on antitrust issues, asked Emmert and Radakovich why any type of restrictions on how college athletes are able to make money with endorsements were necessary.
“Why shouldn’t we let the free market protected by our longstanding antitrust laws including precedent on this issue play out naturally?” Lee said. “… When someone is trying to take their existing sphere and have it grafted into federal law, one must ask these questions.”
Radakovich said they wanted to make sure that future endorsement deals did not become thinly veiled ways for boosters and other fans of a particular college team to pay athletes to induce them to play for that school. The fear among college sports leaders is that type of environment would lead to an unfair competitive advantage for some schools.
Booker asked Radakovich why those restrictions should apply to student-athletes when there are no NCAA rules that cap the amount of money schools can spend on coaching salaries, facility upgrades or other methods of making their programs more appealing to prospective athletes. The senator called those differences in opportunity “plainly hypocritical.”
Radakovich said the legislation that he and other Power Five conference leaders are trying to move forward would help athletes more in the future. Radakovich said that athletes would be able to “capitalize on whatever market opportunities are available to them just like coaches, I think, have the ability to capitalize inside their marketplace.”
The proposal put forth by those conferences, however, includes restrictions that are not imposed on coaches or others in the athletic department. For example, the proposal suggests that the new law should prevent athletes from signing deals with companies that are already sponsors of the university where they play. The proposal also suggested that schools should have the ability to block athletes from accepting an endorsement deal with a company that is a competitor of a university sponsor. Lee asked Radakovich, “Won’t this rule out most opportunities?”
“It’s problematic on its face, for sure,” Radakovich said.
Yeah, that free market. What a problem.