Senators press NCAA to allow college athletes to be paid for name, image, likeness

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Senators pressed college athletic directors and administrators Tuesday on the effects of allowing student-athletes to profit under new name-image-likeness laws passed by a handful of states.

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Congress and the NCAA need to find a national solution before a "hodgepodge" of state laws are enacted in 2021, University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank told the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during the hearing.

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"We provide broad support for our student-athletes," Blank said, listing benefits like health care, laptops, meals and more.

"All of those benefits are dwarfed by what they receive from their college education," she said. "College grads earn $1 million more than those with a high school degree over their lifetime."

The NCAA announced in April that its Board of Governors supports permitting athletes the ability to cash in on their names, images and likenesses as never before and without involvement from the association, schools or conferences.

Blank's fellow witness Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, took the opposite position. His organization worked to bring about the name-image-likeness laws in California, Florida and Nebraska, Huma said.

In this Dec. 7, 2019, file photo, members of the Miami of Ohio team pose on the field after the Mid-American Conference championship NCAA college football game against Central Michigan, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

"NCAA sports itself is based on racial injustice," he said. "The NCAA uses amateurism as a cover to systematically strip generational wealth from predominantly black athletes from lower-income households to pay for lavish salaries for predominantly white coaches, athletic directors, commissioners and NCAA administrators."

HELP Committee Chair Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Congress should give the NCAA broad authority to sort out name-image-likeness rules.

"Here’s what I believe should be the overriding principle: Money paid to student-athletes for name-image-likeness should be paid to all student-athletes," Alexander said, adding that such a solution would "avoid the awkwardness of a center who earns nothing for snapping the ball to" a higher-paid quarterback.

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"I do not see a good ending to allowing a few student-athletes to be paid by commercial interests when most of their teammates are not," continued Alexander, a former college athlete himself.

A group of senators led by Cory Booker of New Jersey and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, both Democrats, on Thursday released a plan for reforming college sports with an athletes' bill of rights.

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The legislative plan calls for college athletes to have the ability to earn money from their names, images and likenesses with “minimal restrictions,” and much more.

The senators also want to ensure for the athletes' long-term medical coverage and treatment, enforceable medical standards, academic freedom and revenue sharing agreements.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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