College Athlete Economic Freedom Act proposed to Congress is a step forward on NIL rights

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The College Athlete Economic Freedom Act, proposed to Congress by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Representative Lori Trahan (D-MA), directly addresses name, image and likeness (NIL) rights for athletes academics. It goes well beyond existing proposed federal and state legislation – and proposed new NCAA rules – by granting athletes broad rights, including virtually unlimited access to NIL income in individual NIL agreements and of group.

Indeed, there are no safeguards to restrict the NULL income of athletes. Additionally, the law would give athletes the right to organize through collective representation, such as a professional association or 501 (c) non-profit, which would be important for NIL group agreements, and a Private antitrust right to sue under the law would make any violation by itself illegal.

This more open approach is appropriate. There is no reason why college athletes should be vetted by the NCAA, their conferences, or their institutions more than other students in their attempt to earn ZERO income. As long as the athlete contracts with third parties at fair market value, further restrictions are unnecessary. While it is debatable whether contracts with alcohol and gambling companies should be restricted, the NCAA does not prevent its member colleges from signing deals with such companies for ethical reasons, so athletes should not be restricted either.

However, safeguards that restrict transactions to third parties and to their fair market value are necessary for the following reasons. If college athletes are allowed to enter into employment contracts with their universities (rather than with third parties only), then their relationship with the university is transformed from an educator / student relationship to an employer / employee relationship. Such a transformation would undermine the fundamental purpose of college education. While this goal has already been flawed, it is both desirable and possible to restore the envisioned relationship, rather than abandon it in the name of free markets. Additionally, if the college athlete is remunerated in non-educational money by the university, the terms of the contract become subject to Title IX as universities receive $ 130 billion in federal government grants each year. Compensation plans that reflect the income generation of athletes will only reward male athletes and, therefore, violate fundamental principles of gender equity.

A fair market value safeguard is also important as it would prevent the introduction of NIL athlete rights from turning into an open job market for high school and college athletes. In the absence of a fair market value rule, a university could arrange with a local retailer an exchange such as the free use of a luxury box with catering at football games if the retailer offers $ 100,000 to a football rookie to make an appearance in his store to sign autographs.

The College Athlete Economic Freedom Act is silent on both the possibility of university / athlete contracts and a possible fair market value safeguard. It is also ambiguous on the interpretation of the scope of NIL rights. Does it include, for example, revenue from live game broadcasting?

While the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act calls for further clarification and definition, the broad assertion of athlete rights in the bill goes far beyond those proposed in federal bills Rubio, Gonzales and Wicker, as well as the plethora of state bills and narrowly limited proposals which the NCAA proposed and then tabled. At the very least, the Murphy / Trahan College Athletic Economic Freedom Act will open a discussion about the rights of athletes that have long been artificially and unnecessarily suppressed by the NCAA and, ultimately, will help foster a more meaningful and fair system. for college athletes in the United States.


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