SPRINGFIELD – University of Illinois athletes could profit regardless of their image or likeness under a bill passed by Illinois House on Saturday.
It is the latest development in a decades-old debate over policies overseen by the NCAA, which is the governing body of most intercollegiate sports. It still needs the approval of the State Senate and the Governor to become law.
Senate Bill 2338, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Representative Kam Buckner, allows Illinois varsity athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness, or their vote when enrolled in a post-secondary educational institution. It also gives college athletes the option of obtaining an agent or lawyer.
It would take effect on July 1 or immediately after the governor’s signature if it occurs after that date.
Buckner said the measure was personal to him as a former University of Illinois soccer player at Urbana-Champaign. Buckner said he and UI athletic director Josh Whitman have teamed up to adopt the policy change.
The issue of allowing varsity athletes to be paid has been the subject of much debate in the sports world for decades, as the NCAA has prevented varsity athletes from enjoying the brand’s endorsement on the basis of amateurism. .
The bill does not allow payment of the salaries of college players. Rather, it allows college athletes to monetize their likeness, such as participating in autograph signing at local businesses or playing video games.
“It really puts Illinois in the right position to be the spearhead and the leader when it comes to ensuring that our young people have autonomy over their name, likeness and image and they’re no longer subject to not having them to control that, ”Buckner told the House on Saturday.
In 2013, a group of college athletes sued the NCAA and EA Sports for using their likenesses in EA’s NCAA football video games, according to CBS News. The lawsuit was eventually settled with the group for $ 60 million.
Buckner was a party to the class action lawsuit against EA Sports for using his likeness without compensation, which was another motivation for this legislation, he said.
“We saw that the NCAA recognized this as a problem, but they refused to move on, and they had ceremonial votes on it, but they didn’t do anything,” Buckner said.
The NCAA was preparing to revise the name and likeness policy in January of this year, but it indefinitely delayed the vote after recommendations from the US Department of Justice not to make a decision. A revised NCAA policy could come in by the end of the year, and supporters of bills like the one passed on Saturday said such measures could force national action.
In March, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging the NCAA ban as a violation of antitrust laws. A decision in this case is still pending.
Several states across the country have moved forward with similar legislation, including California, as well as some Southeastern Conference schools such as Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Buckner said schools in the Big 10 – the conference the University of Illinois plays at – have also joined the initiative.
A bill similar to Buckner’s was originally introduced by Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, in 2019. Welch, who is now the Speaker of the House, played baseball for Northwestern University.
Welch’s proposal was rejected for its inadequate athlete protections and lack of restrictions on improper endorsements. His efforts to resolve the issue were rejected by the House, but failed to secure the votes necessary to exit the Senate.
Buckner’s bill, SB 2338, includes certain limitations on certain products that student-athletes can approve, solving some of the opposition that led to the bill’s failure in 2019. Buckner said that there were about nine different categories prohibited by the bill, including alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, sports betting and gambling, among others.
The bill received broad bipartisan support, coming out of the House with a 95-18 vote. But Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, still had lingering concerns about the protection of athletes despite voting for the bill. of law.
“The reason I’m concerned about this is … the fact that we invoke federal law and when it comes to athletic agents, it doesn’t necessarily create a true fiduciary duty to protect the student’s long-term financial needs. Mazzochi said.
Mazzochi suggested adding a provision to increase legal protections for college athletes through the creation of trust funds.
“Students in this type of field are very easily financially exploited and lawyers and agents will not necessarily have their best interests at heart,” she said.
SB 2338 will now go to the Senate for further consideration.