Category Archives: Political Wankery

TFW things aren’t moving fast enough to suit you

The first California law on compensation for college athletes’ NIL rights hasn’t even gone into effect yet, and there’s a new bill being offered already.  It’s totally bonkers.

Say hello to AB-609 — “The College Athlete Race and Gender Equity Act.”

It’s not merely groundbreaking. It prevents breaking ground, literally.

The bill requires California universities to pay football and men’s basketball players tens of millions of dollars in royalties for the use of their name, image and likeness.

One of the stipulations in AB-609 would bar universities from building athletic facilities (locker rooms, weight rooms, arenas, etc.) just to keep up with their peers.

Another stipulation would force universities to suspend athletic directors for three years if their departments fall out of compliance with Title IX.

Overall, AB-609 is a whopper — progressive to the point of radical, punitive to the point of debilitating and, in sections, deeply confusing.

And yes: It requires name, image and likeness payments from schools to athletes even though the NCAA has already approved NIL compensation for athletes from the private sector. (Implementation is awaiting oversight from Congress.)

“The bill is saying that NIL isn’t enough just going through the private industry,” said a source who has read AB-609, “so the schools that exceed the benchmarks cited in there would have to give that money back.”

To give you an idea of how off the wall this really is…

The ‘Fair Pay To Play’ law that takes effect in California in 2022 (if not sooner) doesn’t allow schools to compensate athletes directly for NIL. Instead, it prevents schools from interfering in payments to athletes from the private sector.

“That’s designed to keep the schools out of it,’’ the source said.

Nothing says progress like overriding landmark legislation.

Believe it or not, this is probably too much for California.  But it’s a good example of the risk the NCAA is taking by stalling on athlete compensation.  There’s always somebody more stubborn than you, Emmert.

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Striking while the iron is hot

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.

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Welcome to the party, pal.

Iowa adds itself to the list of states looking to pass college athletes’ NIL legislation.

On Wednesday, state senators from Iowa introduced legislation to govern name, image and likeness, joining dozens of state legislatures scrambling to pass laws on the topic in what is sure to be a politically charged spring and summer in college athletics.

Iowa’s bill, which is bipartisan in nature, comes with a significant effective date. It would kick in on July 1, matching the earliest effective date of any state bill. Florida’s state NIL law, which passed last year, goes into effect the same day.

“Now that we’re seeing multiple states moving ahead, we want to make sure no Iowa athlete is left behind,” says the bill’s author, Sen. Nate Boulton, a Democrat representing Iowa’s 16th District, which includes the capital of Des Moines.

More like no Iowa football program is left behind.  There are probably a few more state legislative bodies doing the same math.

With Congress looking more and more like it won’t address the issue on a timely basis, it’s coming down to all of the NCAA’s eggs being placed in the Supreme Court’s basket.

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Banged for the buck

The SEC is a place that pisses money away on coaches like nowhere else, so why should this come as any surprise?

That defensive posture for the Power Five comes after the conferences — the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 — collectively spent $1,730,000 to lobby Congress in 2020 — by far the most they have spent in a year, according to lobbying disclosures reviewed by The Associated Press.

The NCAA, despite calling off its lucrative basketball tournaments last March, spent $480,000 on lobbying, roughly in line with its budget in past years, for a total of $2,210,000 paid to lobbyists with similar aims.

Each Power Five conference hired its own lobbying firm and they collectively hired the same two firms — one Republican and one Democratic — as part of their push for a narrow bill giving athletes NIL rights, with numerous restrictions. The Southeastern Conference had the biggest lobbying budget of any league and even outspent the NCAA, paying its lobbyists $570,000.

The lobbyists got most of their wish list into a bill introduced last month by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., but with Wicker no longer the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, it’s unlikely his bill would advance if it were reintroduced in the new Congress.  [Emphasis added.]

If Jimmy Sexton represented the lobbyists, he’d have already negotiated a raise and a contract extension for them, with a large buyout.

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Today, in elections have consequences

I bet schools didn’t see this one coming.

I wonder how many hints it’s going to take before the NCAA gets the message that hunkering down isn’t a working strategy any more.

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“You don’t want us to solve this.”

Be careful what you wish for, Mark Emmert.

Nearly one year ago, inside a packed, high-ceilinged congressional meeting room, a month before the COVID-19 pandemic made such events virtual, Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, glared down from his pulpit at the president of the NCAA.

Sitting before a panel of inquisitive senators, in the true kickoff of the debate over athlete compensation on Capitol Hill, Mark Emmert begged for help from an entity that the NCAA had spent a century keeping out of its arena. He encouraged Congress to assist him with the issue of name, image and likeness (NIL), to intervene in the NCAA’s dealings, to save it from a plethora of differing state laws that threatened its amateurism model.

Seated on that high-rise platform and behind a mahogany lectern, Tester, in his rural twang, delivered a striking warning.

“I’m going to be honest with you,” he boomed. “You don’t want us to solve this.”

More than 11 months later, Tester’s threat rings deeply prophetic.

It’s not just a “to the victors go the spoils” threat.  Right now, the bigger threat is that there’s a lot of stuff on Congress’ plate right now that’s more important than the NCAA’s future.

But maybe the most important news is that the shift in power is impacting the timeline of federal legislation. The new Biden administration is expected to steer the two chambers toward issues involving COVID-19 and the economy, further delaying any real movement on NIL.

In fact, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) believes college legislation will not move in Congress until after Biden’s first 100 days.

“We have bigger fish to fry,” says Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “I think it’s aggressive that we’re going to have a bill sitting on the president’s desk this summer.”

Such a delay could put the NCAA on a collision course with the state of Florida, whose state NIL law takes effect in July. As many as 20 more states could join the fray this spring by passing NIL legislation that kicks in over the summer, creating what some believe will be a chaotic environment where athlete compensation is governed by differing state laws instead of a universal policy.

Oh, I don’t think I’d worry about differing state laws too much.  Where Florida goes, you can be damned sure the rest of the SEC will follow, and quickly.

From here, it looks like Emmert and Company are more and more likely to hope for a Hail Mary, in the form of a favorable Supreme Court ruling.

For the first time in more than 30 years, the Supreme Court will hear a case involving the NCAA. The high court will review a court decision in an antitrust lawsuit, NCAA v. Alston, that could dramatically impact the NCAA’s long-standing amateurism model. A Supreme Court decision in the case, which will review whether the NCAA’s eligibility rules regarding athlete compensation violate federal antitrust law, is expected by the end of June.

“If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the NCAA and amateurism, the NCAA can go to federal courts and argue Florida’s law needs to be stopped because it interferes with NCAA amateurism rules and those rules were blessed by the Supreme Court,” Feldman says. “It could bolster the NCAA’s argument that states should not be able to enact their own NIL laws.”

Eh, maybe that works, but given the NCAA’s litigation track record, I wouldn’t be too confident of that.

In the meantime, “… 11 months after Emmert sat in front of senators pleading for a congressional NIL bill and promising his own set of NIL laws, the NCAA sits empty handed, part of its own doing.”  When it comes to amateurism, doing as little as possible has been the NCAA’s playbook.  We’ll see how much longer that’s a viable approach.

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“It’s not like the antitrust laws were passed yesterday…”

It appears the new sheriffs in town aren’t impressed with Mark Emmert’s sudden retreat on the NCAA’s proposed one-time transfer rule.

Blumenthal and Booker said they had no patience for the notion that the NCAA Division I Council and Board of Directors backed off scheduled votes this week on transfer and NIL proposals, in part, because of concerns the Justice Department’s antitrust division leader Makan Delrahim raised in a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert last Friday. Blumenthal indicated that any antitrust flaws in the proposals should have been apparent to the association and the proposals should have been tailored accordingly.

“It’s not like the antitrust laws were passed yesterday,” Blumenthal said. “They’ve been around for a while.”

Booker said he saw no reason why the Justice Department’s concerns with elements of the transfer process that weren’t being addressed by the proposed rules changes should have prevented the NCAA from making the change that the department actually lauded – addressing the five remaining Division I sports in which athletes generally are prohibited from playing for one year if they change schools.

“A good-faith measure for them would be to change their transfer rules,” so transferring athletes don’t have to sit out, Booker said. “I don’t think that this is a reaction to the Justice Department. I think this is a false cry of impotency on their part to address the real fairness and justice issues of the athletes that they say they’re organized to protect.”

I’m shocked, shocked that anyone would accuse the NCAA of having ulterior motives when it comes to doing it for the kids controlling the distribution of the enormous sums of money that flow through collegiate athletics.

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Well, if you’re looking for some good election news…

Georgia may have done fans of EA Sports’ NCAA Football a solid.

With Raphael Warnock projected to win one of the two U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff leading in the other, among the myriad possible outcomes of a change in control of the Senate is how the NCAA will fare in its effort to get a Congressional solution to issues surrounding college athletes’ ability to make money from their names, images and likenesses.

Democrats will continue to have a majority in the House of Representatives. And a bill introduced in the last session of Congress by Democratic Sens. Cory Booker (New Jersey) and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) would go far beyond bills driven by Republican senators and congressmen that were centered more narrowly around name, image and likeness (NIL).

… Blumenthal recently said his and Booker’s measure will be reintroduced in the new session. While changes could be made, the previous version had provisions that included athletes annually receiving money directly based on the revenue surpluses they help their teams generate. He and Booker also want athletes to have long-term health care and a set of educational protections.

As written for the last session, their bill would mandate not only individual NIL rights, but also athletes’ ability to market themselves as a group. That step, among other impacts, would begin to create a mechanism for athletes to be legally depicted in once-popular video games that were discontinued amid NIL litigation against the NCAA.

And you didn’t think your vote would make a difference.

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It just means more, mid-majors edition.

Shot.

Chaser.

That ought to make finding a successor easy peasy, no?

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It’s for their own good.

This is Mark Emmert’s just desserts for sitting on his hands.

The most recent congressional proposal to reshape college sports aims to go far beyond codifying a college athlete’s ability to earn endorsement money.

The College Athlete Bill of Rights, proposed Thursday by co-authors Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., would create sweeping changes for college sports, including provisions that would force some schools to share revenue with some of their athletes, guarantee lifetime scholarships to athletes in good academic standing, establish health and safety rules enforced by hefty fines for violators, and set up a fund to cover some out-of-pocket medical expenses for current and former athletes.

The rules and requirements laid out in the bill would be enforced by a newly formed Commission on College Athletics, which would be run by nine board members who are appointed by the president of the United States. They would hire a staff to resolve disputes, suggest changes to rules and investigate wrongdoing with the power to subpoena witnesses. This group, which would receive $50 million in taxpayer funding for its first two years, would take on a lot of the work of policing college sports.

“This is one of the few industries in America that is allowed to exploit those who are responsible for generating most of the revenue,” Booker told ESPN. “I feel like the federal government has a role and responsibility that we’ve been shirking in terms of protecting athletes and ensuring their safety. I just really believe there is an urgency here that has not been met for decades and decades. We need to step up and do something about it.”

They are from the government and they are here to help.  And the NCAA, in the process of inviting the camel to stick its nose inside the tent, deserves every bit of unforeseen consequences it gets from its sheer obstinacy.

All this could have been avoided with some proactive effort, but when you’re a maximalist hammer, everything looks like an amateurism nail.  Enjoy reaping the whirlwind, fellas.

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