Congressman to Propose Federal 'Fair Pay' Bill

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Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature was the first crack in the dam, it seems. 

When Newsom signed California’s new law allowing for college athletes to earn money from use of their name, image and likeness, legislators in other states rushed to tell reporters that they would be proposing similar legislation. But state level legislation presents complications, particularly when it comes to regulating a national body, such as the NCAA.

Enter U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, a former Ohio State wide receiver, is planning to propose federal legislation to pave the way for student-athletes to earn money from endorsements, according to ESPN

While many of the state-level laws that have been proposed by lawmakers closely mirror California’s legislation — which will go into effect in 2023 — some states have proposed variations, such as paying athletes directly or setting up health care funds, that would essentially create different rules for athletes competing in different states.

“I actually think that we need to do something quickly, within the next year,” Gonzalez told ESPN. “I don’t think you have three years to figure this out. I think decisions will start happening immediately.”

Gonzalez has reportedly discussed the issue of name, image and likeness legislation with Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who co-chairs the NCAA working group considering the issue. Smith’s group is expected to make recommendations on possible changes to name, image and likeness rules to the NCAA later this month. 

ESPN reports that Gonzalez will reveal his drafted legislation after Smith’s group makes its recommendations. 

“My plan is to wait on that,” Gonzalez told ESPN. “I trust Gene. I know he’s thoughtful in this. … I want to see that play out, and then he and I will have discussions on how we can solve the goals that we all have.”

Another bill that would change how the NCAA operates is actually already under consideration in Washington. North Carolina congressperson Mark Walker has proposed revising the tax code to force the NCAA to allow athletes to earn endorsement money or risk losing their tax exempt status. Gonzalez says, however, that that legislation, currently in committee, doesn’t have certain protections that he’d like to see. 

“You can imagine a world where, if there were no guardrails in place, that it could get out of hand pretty quickly,” Gonzalez told ESPN. “That’s the lane you’re trying to carve. How do you do this to provide necessary and deserved benefits while not inviting a bigger problem alongside it?”

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