Tuesday, 29 October 2019 18:49

Rep. Walker’s bill may have spurred NCAA to reconsider amateur rules

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RALEIGH — U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-6th District, has the NCAA’s attention when it comes to fair pay for student athletes. But he wants action from the collegiate sports giant — and from Congress.

The NCAA’s board of governors voted Tuesday, Oct. 29, to allow college athletes to use their name, image, or likeness for profit. It’s a landmark decision, and one that may have been catalyzed by legislation from Walker.

House Resolution 1804, Student-Athlete Equity Act, would change the federal tax code, effectively requiring that the NCAA let athletes get paid for their name, picture, or other personal branding. If it didn’t, the organization could lose its tax-exempt status.

Walker introduced the bill in March. It has bipartisan support.

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” NCAA board chair Michel Drake said Tuesday. “Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education.”

While the NCAA’s words are promising, their actions haven’t always matched, Walker said in a written statement. Every student athlete deserves constitutional rights, he said.

“The NCAA is on the clock, and while they are, we’re going to keep working towards the passage of the Student-Athlete Equity Act to make sure their words are forced into action,” Walker said.

Compensating student athletes is trending on a state level. Last month, California adopted the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” also letting NCAA scholarship athletes get compensation for use of their names, images, or likenesses.

College athletes could get a percentage of revenues from sales of personalized merchandise, or accept money from commercial sponsors and remain eligible to play sports on scholarship.

Walker was supportive.

“For far too long, the NCAA has arbitrarily set a sham definition of amateurism to strip college athletes of the rights to their own names and self-worth, only promising to create do-nothing commissions when others highlight their exploitation,” Walker said after California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed the act into law. “With only a short time until the law takes effect, it is imperative that the House Ways and Means Committee begins to review and advance my Student-Athlete Equity Act.”

H.R. 1804 has yet to move out of that committee.