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Senators: NCAA NIL Reform a Step Forward and Back

Jason Scott

Two leading United States senators on the subject of NCAA reform have sent a letter to association president Mark Emmert expressing their concern over the “immaterial” framework for name, image and likeness compensation the NCAA unveiled in a report last week.

Senators Cory Booker and Chris Murphy co-signed the 600-word letter, which called the reforms outlined by the NCAA Board of Governors “both a step forward and a step back.”

“Yes, the framework describes a goal of creating the opportunity for athletes to be paid for NIL rights, but it also says that these opportunities will be restricted by what the report calls ‘guardrails,’ ” the letter reads in part. “Thus, it remains completely uncertain how the NCAA will determine an athlete’s endorsement deal fits within its proposed guardrails and whether those guardrails will be so restrictive, the rules so byzantine, and the penalties so onerous, that students will in fact have no meaningful ability to receive compensation for NIL rights.”

According to Sports Illustrated, Booker and Murphy are calling on a broader plan for NCAA reform — one which places student-athlete health and safety at the forefront — prior to Congress acting on NCAA requests to pre-empt different NIL laws which have recently passed many state legislatures throughout the country. 

Related: NCAA Board of Governors Supports NIL Rule Changes

“...[W]e believe that any protection that Congress grants the NCAA or its members from legislative or legal proceedings should be met with a broad series of reforms that advance college athlete protections,” the letter says. “Too many college athletes fall victim to a system that puts their health and safety secondary to winning and generating revenue.”

The NCAA is seeking congressional intervention when it comes to reform because the laws passed by the states vary — in their scope, effects and timelines — and could make regulating college sports on a national level exceedingly difficult if they’re allowed to take effect.

Still, lawmakers of both parties have been supportive of efforts to reform the NCAA. A house bill was authored by Rep. Mark Warner, and the Senate has a working group on the subject that, along with Democrats Booker and Murphy, features Republican lawmakers such as Mitt Romney, David Perdue and Marco Rubio.

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