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Emmert: Congress Likely to Pass Compensation Law

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NCAA president Mark Emmert, speaking at an event on Wednesday, said that he thinks it is “highly probable” that the U.S. Congress will pass a set of guidelines for how college student-athletes can be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses.

According to the Associated Press, Emmert said that the issue of name, image and likeness compensation is taking up most of his time these days, between meeting with lawmakers in Washington and university presidents and other institutional representatives. 

“Members of Congress care about college sports,” Emmert said at the event, sponsored by the Sports Business Journal. “They recognize how important it is to American society. They don’t want to do harm. They want to make it better. But it’s going to be a long road. It’s not going to be something that happens overnight.”

So far, more than 20 states have taken steps to address the issue of student-athlete compensation — a wave which began when California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law that will allow student-athletes in that state to earn money from endorsement deals beginning in 2023. 

That law, and the others like it being considered in state legislatures across the country, would make NCAA rules governing the issue near impossible for member schools. A federal law applicable to every state would negate that problem. Though the NCAA is anticipating congressional action, it hopes to be involved in any discussions regarding new laws. 

“We’ll provide whatever input we can and answer whatever questions they want,” Emmert said. “They may well see other things they think could or should be addressed.”

One area the NCAA is particularly concerned with is what Emmert called “a completely unfettered sponsorship model.” Emmert said that laws allowing for that could pave the way for an employee-employer relationship between a student-athlete and a school. The NCAA hopes to maintain what it calls the “collegiate model” in a landscape where student-athletes may be compensated. 

Senators Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Mitt Romney of Utah last week announced a bipartisan congressional working group on the issue.

While Emmert conceded that some issues “can’t be really resolved without congressional action,” he also said that “nobody is talking about the federal government running college sports.”

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