In a long awaited, but highly anticipated step, a group of United States Senators has announced the formation of a bipartisan working group to assist with ongoing discussions regarding compensation for student-athletes relating to their name, image and likeness. The working group, whose initial members will include Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-Ct), David Perdue (R-GA), Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), will aim to provide an informal, open forum among federal legislators, collegiate partners, athletes and experts who wish to engage with lawmakers in the process.

The federal legislative group has been formed while the NCAA’s internal working group will continue working through April 2020 to gather feedback and refine its initial policy recommendation that will permit students participating in college athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model. The initial policy recommendations from the NCAA’s internal working group on name, image, and likeness issues, headed by Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman and senior college administrator Gene Smith, were based on several months of gathering feedback from various stakeholders, including current and former student-athletes, coaches, presidents, faculty and commissioners across all three NCAA divisions. As part of the NCAA’s working group initiative, each NCAA division has been asked to create any new rules beginning immediately, but no later than January 2021.

NCAA President Mark Emmert expressed his approval of the formation of the federal legislative working group. Emmert stated,

the NCAA, its member schools and conferences are committed to enhancing our rules while providing the best educational and athletic experience for our student-athletes. We know that continuing our modernization of rules will require some level of federal assistance, and we look forward to working with federal legislators as we drive improvements for the next decade.

Since the passing of California Senate Bill 206, legislators from more than 25 additional states have either introduced legislation or announced plans to introduce legislation at the start of their state’s next legislative session shortly after the start of the new year. The numerous state law proposals permitting student-athletes the right to secure compensation for their name, image and likeness rights and the various effective dates for these bills has raised concern about the potential ability of the NCAA and college athletics to maintain some semblance of order. In fact, the NCAA has previously indicated that state laws contradicting its policies might result in athletes or schools being declared ineligible,

Addressing the concerns regarding the complexities that could arise from the potential of numerous state laws pertaining to student-athlete rights, working group member Senator Marco Rubio commented,

Having 50 different state laws for compensating student athletes on their name, image likeness would result in chaos and endless litigation. This bipartisan working group has a tough task ahead of us, but it is clear Congress must address this important issue.

Senator Purdue echoed Senator Rubio’s thoughts, ‘It is important to preserve the collegiate sports experience while promoting equality for students across all 50 states.” Voicing optimism for the new formed federal working group, Senator Perdue added, “this bipartisan working group will provide an informal setting for these discussions and will hopefully produce solutions to prevent any state, school, or student from being at disadvantage.”

Jackson Lewis’ Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group will continue to monitor the various issues arising from this newly formed federal legislator working group and its potential impact to student-athlete marketing rights of their name, image and likeness. Please feel free to reach out to any member of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group with questions.