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Bill Proposes Study on Treatment of College Athletes

Andy Berg

Legislation that would have authorized Maryland college athletes to unionize has suffered a setback, with the author of the bill now setting the stage to better understand how college athletes in the state are treated. 

The Baltimore Sun reports that Del. Brooke Lierman on Friday amended her own legislation, moving instead to form a commission that would investigate how college student-athletes are treated in Maryland. The amendment is seen as an acknowledgement on Lierman’s part that her initial legislation that would have authorized college athletes to unionize is unlikely to pass this year. 

“I recognize that going all the way to collective bargaining for our student athletes, even for just a limited number of subjects, might be a big leap,” Lierman told the House Appropriations committee Friday. “That's why I'm also offering an amendment to create a commission to focus on the fair treatment of student athletes. We want to make sure that how our students are treated while at our public institutions is not a peripheral issue but a central one.”

Lierman’s proposed Commission on the Fair Treatment of Student Athletes would study a range of student-athlete issues, including whether Maryland colleges and universities are providing enough academic support for athletes and if there are enough resources for those suffering from injuries. The commission would also study whether athletes should be permitted to unionize and enter into profit-sharing agreements with their schools. 

Amid an ongoing corruption investigation into men’s college basketball, Lierman feels student-athletes are vulnerable and underserved.

“The NCAA scandals are growing and so is the symphony of voices demanding more rights for our college athletes,” Lierman said Friday. “The issues here in Maryland in the last year make clear that it is time for us to join the conversation. This bill is about trying to right the imbalance of power that exists between college student athletes and coaches and administrators." 

Lierman’s bill has 18 co-sponsors. If approved, the commission would then report back to the General Assembly on its findings by November of 2020.

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