- The Washington Times - Friday, June 25, 2021

Florida is implementing a law next month allowing student-athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses, a move legal experts say will help the state’s schools recruit top competitors.

Similar laws are scheduled to take effect Thursday in a few other states. The Connecticut General Assembly sent a bill to the governor this month.

In addition to Florida, states with name, image and likeness laws on the books are Georgia, New Mexico, Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma.

“If you are able to offer student-athletes an opportunity to earn outside income, you’re going to be a much more attractive place,” said W. Scott Cole, a lawyer at GrayRobinson in Orlando, Florida.

Because the laws vary from state to state, analysts say, the federal government will eventually have to step in and set a nationwide standard.

The Georgia law allows college athletes to make money, but the profits have to be shared with the schools. Other state laws have fewer limitations on what the athletes can earn and keep.

Without a national law, the NCAA would need to give waivers to students in states with name, image and likeness statutes so they don’t run afoul of the organization’s rules banning college athletes from making money outside of school-related benefits.

Jarrod Jordan, chief marketing officer for Iovate Health Sciences International, said working with college athletes who are motivated will help influence their peers. He noted that the college audience is a “coveted demographic” for many brands and marketers.

“Any brand looking to excel on a platform like TikTok will probably find greater success working with student-athletes who live on the platform as opposed to a more seasoned professional athlete who may have grown up on Twitter or Instagram,” he said.

The NCAA said 18 states have some of these types of regulations, but NCAA President Mark Emmert is urging lawmakers on Capitol Hill to enact a federal standard.

“A patchwork of state laws threatens the NCAA‘s ability to provide uniform NIL opportunities as well as fair, national competition to hundreds of thousands of student-athletes who participate in college sports each year,” Mr. Emmert told senators on Capitol Hill this month.

“There is an urgent need for a federal solution so that we may continue to provide all student-athletes with broad-based opportunities and a fair system of participation and competition,” he said.

In the meantime, the NCAA is moving to give schools in states without name, image and likeness laws the right to enforce their own policies, as long as they follow NCAA guidance.

The stopgap measure would allow student-athletes to “take advantage of NIL opportunities regardless of the state in which they are enrolled,” Mr. Emmert wrote in a memo addressed to the NCAA‘s member schools.

The NCAA‘s Division I council has a meeting on the matter set for Monday. According to Sports Illustrated, the NCAA‘s Division I board of directors is expected to adopt the changes when it meets Wednesday.

The Supreme Court delivered a blow to the NCAA last week by ruling that college athletes have a right to education-related benefits.

The NCAA said such benefits could lead to abuses, such as luxury car purchases for athletes to get from class to class.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh signaled in a concurrence that it could open the door to paying student-athletes money and benefits unrelated to their schooling.

Courts have taken note.

A federal judge on Thursday denied the NCAA‘s move to dismiss a class-action lawsuit brought by student-athletes against the ban on names, images and likenesses. That allowed the case to continue in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Mr. Cole said the changing landscape for college players is just beginning.

“We are going to see some lawsuits and court decisions before too long that address the rest of the story for student-athletes,” he said.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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