Give Senator Chris Murphy credit for good timing.
In fitting timing, the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act was announced two days after EA Sports announced the eventual return of its popular college football video game. The bill would grant athletes the ability to enter into group licensing agreements, allowing their names to be used in such endeavors as video games and jersey sales.
… In an athlete-friendly provision, the bill grants college recruits open access to NIL rights, prohibiting the NCAA, schools and conferences from creating guardrails that restrict prospective athletes’ compensation. This concept touches at the heart of the raging debate over NIL, with the NCAA fearing that, without guardrails, schools will use NIL as a way to gain a recruit’s commitment. The legislation grants athletes the ability to retain agents to strike NIL deals and prohibits the NCAA from regulating any athlete representation—another sticking point with college administrators.
If you think that’s a coincidence, I’ve still got that oceanfront tract in Hahira I can be convinced to let go at a very attractive price. Selling an NIL rights bill as a fix to getting a proper NCAA Football game back on the market is about as shrewd a move as you could make, politically speaking.
And Murphy’s bill has some pretty sharp teeth.
The bill gives the NCAA no antitrust protections and, in fact, includes antitrust penalties if college, conferences and the NCAA violate the law. Violators would have little defense or standing against an antitrust claim for denying opportunities for athletes. The bill grants athletes a private right of action to pursue civil action against violators and authorizes the Federal Trade Commission to enact “unfair or deceptive practice” penalties against violators.
The legislation does grant one provision that the NCAA has asked of Congress: it preempts state laws governing NIL.
Well, that’s comforting, if you’re Mark Emmert.
The bill, as even Murphy acknowledges, is unlikely to see any action for a while, given what’s on Congress’ plate at the moment. But it does ratchet up the pressure on the NCAA.
Some of that language is included in the “College Athletes Bill of Rights” filed in December by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Until Murphy’s bill, Booker’s was considered the most athlete-friendly in terms of NIL.
Sources told CBS Sports that the NCAA may consider Sen. Booker’s bill “and work backwards” toward NIL legislation because it is so expansive. That was before Murphy’s bill was filed.
In the meantime, there are a host of state laws that will come on line this year that presumably will the the subjects of litigation. The NCAA’s 2021 legal budget ought to be a blast to see.