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Power Five Urge Congress Not to Delay NIL Legislation

Paul Steinbach

Power Five conference commissioners have sent a letter to Congress urging the body not to delay in passing student-athlete name, image and likeness legislation, even if the NCAA hasn't.

A letter first reported Friday by Stadium and confirmed by The Washington Post asks Congress to act so that federal legislation and a “uniform national standard” would preempt state legislation related to these payments. Individual state legislation could lead to uneven standards across the country and within conferences.

The letter, dated May 23, speaks for all 65 member institutions of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC in support of “legislation providing a single, national standard for NIL that would protect student-athletes, provide economic opportunity, and promote academics.”

As reported by The Washington Post, the NCAA announced in April that its Board of Governors supported rule changes that allowed athletes to be paid for endorsements. The board already had identified guiding principles that it said would maintain college athletics’ role as part of higher education. The April announcement said the board’s recommendations would “move to the rules-making structure in each of the NCAA’s three divisions for further consideration” with the rule changes expected to take effect for the 2021-22 academic year.

The letter from the Power Five commissioners says they “believe strongly that Congress should enact the framework for a clear national policy on NIL as soon as possible and not wait for the NCAA process to conclude before moving forward with a national legislative plan.”

The commissioners outlined nine principles rooted in maintaining athletes’ status as students, rather than employees, and avoiding a pay-for-play model. Athletes must continue their academic progress. Universities cannot pay athletes for playing their sports or indirectly pay athletes by allowing university sponsors or athletic department boosters to enter into agreements with athletes for their names, images and likenesses.

Some of the principles detailed in the letter include having safeguards that protect athletes from “unscrupulous actors,” forbidding the use of NIL as a recruiting tool and allowing universities to prohibit agreements that are “inconsistent with higher education,” such as endorsing tobacco or alcohol.

According to The Washington Post report, the list of principles says the rules should be implemented “with a full appreciation and recognition of the diversity of our student-athletes and to ensure protection of gains made under Title IX. Transparency, defined as the public disclosure of NIL licenses and disclosure of representation to the universities, should be relied upon to “prevent corruption of the collegiate model.”

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