Yesterday, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to discuss the need for a federal law to regulate name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights for college athletes. Starting July 1, NIL laws will go into effect in five states, with at least 13 more following suit over the next year, setting up a summer of chaos as the NCAA scrambles to enact its own NIL legislation.
As expected, the three-hour hearing didn’t result in any concrete solutions, just lots of talk about how there needs to be a solution. The committee heard testimony from Gonzaga head coach Mark Few, who pressed the need for a federal law, and questioned NCAA president Mark Emmert, who told senators the organization is hoping to pass its NIL rules in late June. After it was over, the Power 5 conferences — SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 — released a statement doubling down on that sense of urgency.
“Only Congress can pass a national solution for student-athlete NIL rights,” the statement read. “The patchwork of state laws that begins on July 1 will disadvantage student-athletes in some states and create an unworkable system for others. As leaders in college athletics, we support extending NIL rights in a way that supports the educational opportunities of all student-athletes, including collegians in Olympic sports who comprised 80% of Team USA at the Rio games. We continue to work with Congress to develop a solution for NIL and expand opportunities.”
Among the topics debated by the committee: the need to include long-term medical care and educational opportunities for athletes after they leave school and whether or not bigger, wealthier schools (such as Kentucky) should share revenue with smaller, poorer schools to finance that. Emmert told senators he believes that is “doable.”
What’s next? Senator Maria Cantwell, the chair of the committee, said the group will reconvene soon to hear from current college athletes. For more on the hearing, I’ll direct you to this thorough recap from Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger: