New Name, Image, Likeness Bill Seeks Rights for Players

Brock Fritz Headshot

The first bipartisan name, image, likeness bill was introduced to Congress on Thursday.

Sports Illustrated, which obtained a copy of the bill, reported that the “player-friendly” bill was introduced by Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), alongside three Republic and three Democrat cosponsors. The new bill, which states universities shouldn’t directly compensate athletes for their NIL, assigns the Federal Trade Commission to oversee and enforce NIL. ESPN reported that a 13-member commission would be created to study the issue and provide an annual report to Congress.

“I want to be unequivocally clear: This is a civil rights issue,” Cleaver said, according to SI. “For far too long college athletes across the country — many of whom are people of color — have been denied the basic right to control their name, image and likeness. What we wanted to do from the outset was come to a bipartisan consensus that puts forth a national framework that gives college athletes the same rights every other American in the country is already afforded.”

According to SI’s Ross Dellenger, the bill “preempts all state NIL laws and restricts athletes from entering endorsement deals with several companies, including those associated with alcohol, tobacco or vaping, marijuana or drug dispensaries and sellers, and casinos/gambling facilities.”

Dellenger points out that the bill doesn’t prevent athletes from endorsing products that conflict with their university’s endorsement deals, which the NCAA has done in its drafted legislation. The other main difference from the NCAA’s recommendations is that the Gonzalez-Cleaver bill doesn’t grant the NCAA antitrust protections from lawsuits arising over NIL.

Related content: Power Five Urge Congress Not to Delay NIL Legislation

According to USA Today, the new bill’s “antitrust wording is not as strong as the language in a bill introduced in June by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Rubio’s proposal would require the NCAA to make rule changes regarding college athletes’ ability to make money from their NIL but says ‘no cause of action shall lie or be maintained in any court’ against the NCAA and/or schools regarding whatever new rules they adopt as a result of the legislation.”

The NCAA has asked for congressional intervention with NIL reform, as states have been working on varying timelines to adopt their own laws.

Gonzalez, a former Ohio State University and NFL wide receiver, told SI that the issue will likely last until 2021.

“Right now, Congress is still just learning about this issue,” he said. “We have a pandemic we’re working through.

“I believe deeply that the college sports experience is a transformative life experience and we need to protect the overall structure of the college system.”

Related content: Senators: NCAA NIL Reform a Step Forward and Back

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