Five Senators Reintroduce College Athlete Bill of Rights

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Two U.S. senators at the center of the college athlete compensation debate on Capitol Hill are reintroducing a sweeping bill that would give college players the right to transfer an unlimited amount and return to school after entering a professional draft, as well as access to lifetime scholarships.

Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and three other Democratic senators are filing the newest version of the 2020 College Athlete Bill of Rights this week in Congress. Their office released an early copy of the bill to Sports Illustrated.

The bill is substantively identical to the version that was introduced in December 2020 except that it does not feature a revenue-sharing concept.

Booker plans to introduce a separate, standalone bill regarding revenue sharing, a Booker staff member says, as reported by SI.

The reintroduction of the College Athlete Bill of Rights comes at a time of seismic change within college athletics, as NIL enters its second year. The 2022 version of the bill provides athletes with little-to-no restrictions on NIL deals and allows for group licensing. In the only real limitation for athletes, states and schools can prohibit endorsement contracts with entities from particular industries, such as alcohol and drug companies, as long as the same restriction applies to the school or if the deal violates rules that all students are subject to. Schools are prohibited from arranging NIL deals for athletes, the bill says.

Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Alex Padilla (D-Ca.) are the other sponsors of a bill that, for now, does not include any Republican support.

College athletes rights and NIL have evolved into a partisan topic on Capitol Hill, according to SI. Since 2019, at least eight such bills have been introduced in Congress and none have advanced to even the first step in the legislative process despite more than a half-dozen hearings on the topic.

While the removal of the revenue-sharing provision makes Booker’s bill more digestible for Republicans, the bill is broad in scope and does not include antitrust protections for the NCAA. In the past, Republicans have supported a more narrow bill that gives NCAA protections.

“Being a college football player opened so many doors for me and provided me with invaluable skills that I still use to this day,” Booker, who played tight end at Stanford, said in a statement, as reported by SI. “At the same time, I also saw the injustices that college athletes experience as the NCAA exploits them for financial gain, and woefully fails to protect their health, well-being, and safety—especially Black athletes, who are over-represented in revenue-generating sports. 

“The time has come for change—and this bill moves us closer to doing right by and for college athletes.”

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