Lawmakers weigh national rules for college athlete NIL deals

College athletes around the country are now able to profit off their personal brand thanks to a policy change through the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in recent years.

But questions remain about the rules for name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals because there is no national framework. Instead, there has been a patchwork of different state laws.

It was the focus of a House hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday, which included testimony from college players and athletics officials.

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“At the NCAA, we are exhausting every option available to lead many of these long overdue reform efforts,” said NCAA President and former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

UCLA football player Chase Griffin told lawmakers he has entered more than 40 NIL deals since the policy change allowed it.

“For most of us, NIL is not Lamborghini money, but it could mean a down payment on our first homes and a new pathway to the American dream,” said Griffin.

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Some college athletes said the lack of a national framework has made it confusing for student players trying to navigate the NIL process.

“I feared doing something wrong and not even realizing it,” said University of Michigan softball player Kaitlin Tholl. “How do I do taxes? Who do I report these things to? How do I know a company is a good company?”

Tholl said she was fortunate to get guidance and legal help for NIL deals at the University of Michigan, but not every school has the same policies or resources.

“Uniformity is key,” said Radford University volleyball player Meredith Page. “A cohesive set of rules ensures that every student athlete regardless of their program or location can benefit from their NIL without unnecessary complications.”

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Now members of the House committee are weighing a proposal known as the Fair College Sports Act.

The bill creates a set of rules for schools to follow nationwide, including legal protections for players entering NIL contracts.

It also allows conferences or schools to ban certain kinds of deals like ones related to gambling or tobacco and alcohol products.

The proposal also allows limitations on the amount of time a student athlete spends on endorsement activities related to an NIL agreement.

“The sudden transition to NIL has enabled a wild west environment where pay for play is rampant,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), who introduced the draft proposal.

But the measure is facing criticism over some of the regulations for players and small businesses looking to work with them.

“The last thing this committee should be considering is legislation that would limit those opportunities,” said Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA).

“No other industry’s brand endorsers are subject to regulations like these,” said Griffin. “If enacted, this bill would deprive another generation of athletes a proven and growing pathway to the American dream.”

The college athletes who testified urged lawmakers to consider their input before finalizing the bill and bringing it to a vote.

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