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Maryland Senate Unanimously Passes NIL Legislation

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Maryland is the latest state to introduce a bill that would allow college athletes to earn endorsement money.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Maryland Senate unanimously passed the Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act. The legislation, which still has to pass through chamber lawmakers and governor Larry Hogan, would allow athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness.

If it passes, it would also require athletic departments to implement guidelines to prevent, assess and treat sports-related medical conditions. The legislation is named after Jordan McNair, a former University of Maryland offensive lineman who died during a workout in 2018.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the legislation’s supporters are looking to join six states that have already voted to expand NIL rights. More than 20 states are considering legislation.

“I think it’s important for the General Assembly to demonstrate to athletes who attend our schools already and to potential student-athletes that we believe they should retain their rights to their name, image and likeness,” said Del. Brooke Lierman, who sponsored the House version of the Maryland legislation, according to The Sun. “Would I like to see the NCAA and the federal government step up and do the right thing? Absolutely. But am I willing to wait for them to do the right thing for our student-athletes? Absolutely not.”

College athletes traditionally haven’t been eligible to compete after receiving monetary compensation. That’s been challenged as more and more entities are pushing to adopt new name, image and likeness legislation.

California started the movement of state’s introducing NIL bills. California’s law is scheduled to take effect in 2023, while Florida’s NIL law is scheduled to begin July 1. Colorado, Nebraska, New Jersey and Michigan have also passed legislation.

According to the AP, NCAA president Mark Emmert said he hopes the NCAA will have uniform NIL rules before next football season.

"We certainly want to make sure that we can be ready for implementation of those kinds of rules by the time we get to the fall," Emmert said. "There's a lot of moving parts and it's a very challenging issue to get in place."

In April 2020, the NCAA announced that the Board of Governors supports rule changes that would allow student-athletes to “receive compensation for third-party endorsements both related to and separate from athletics. It also supports compensation for other student-athlete opportunities, such as social media, businesses they have started and personal appearances within the guiding principles originally outlined by the board in October.”

In early January, the NCAA tabled a vote that would have updated rules that dictate how athletes are allowed to benefit from NIL. The Division I Council decided it needed more information before voting on the proposal. Last week, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief supporting the NCAA's opponents in an antitrust case going before the Supreme Court this month.

"I still believe Congress has the responsibility to address the civil rights crisis at the core of college sports," Connecticut senator Chris Murphy told the AP. "But where congress doesn't act, I think the courts and the Department of Justice can and should help end generations of exploitation by addressing the ways the NCAA illegally controls compensation for college athletes. So while I personally think federal legislation is necessary to put pressure on the NCAA to change its ways, a wait-and-see approach may also be an effective way to unwind the sports industry's cabal."

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