… the NCAA get its antitrust relief from Congress, that is.
All of this is happening in the shadow of the raging debate over athlete compensation, an issue that has reached the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The NCAA is asking Congress to create friendly legislation to govern name, image and likeness (NIL). Their requests are aggressive. The NCAA is seeking a federal universal standard to preempt differing state NIL laws and an antitrust exemption from NIL lawsuits, while also requesting any bill include a bevy of athlete restrictions.
The handling of virus-related matters from college leaders is under the watchful eye of lawmakers who say the two issues, NIL and the virus, are related. “I hope Congress is watching,” says Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “I hope Congress is seeing what the real priorities for these schools are because it will educate our decision on how much power to give the NCAA and schools when it comes to an NIL bill. There’s definitely an interest in handing over a lot of power of endorsement deals to the schools and the NCAA. Given what’s happened in the last few months, that increasingly looks like a bad idea.”
In an interview with SI, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) says the two issues are related in that they are exposing a “hesitant leadership team” at NCAA headquarters. The NCAA only last week released detailed, in-season medical guidelines—a week after an NIL hearing on Capitol Hill turned into an inquiry about the NCAA’s lack of leadership as it relates to the virus. “The lack of leadership issue is what is swimming through the offices at the NCAA and I don’t know if it’s a curable disease,” Blackburn says.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is at the heart of the NIL debate in DC. He’s calling for more expanded reform at the NCAA and plans to craft legislation he refers to as an athlete bill of rights. “The question in both the (virus) and NIL is whether athletes again are going to be exploited by schools for the benefit of the institutions over the interest of the athlete,” Blumenthal tells SI in a recent interview.
These days, it takes a rare talent to generate bipartisan hostility in the Senate. So, at least college athletics has that going for it.