College athletes across the state will be able to profit off their name, image, and likeness

For the first time, collegiate athletes will be able to profit from their name, image, likeness, and reputation in the state of Michigan. The bipartisan legislation was introduced in 2019 by representatives Brandt Iden (R-Kalamazoo) and Joe Tate (D-Detroit), both former college athletes, and signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in late Dec. 2020. 

Across divisions and sports, athletes will not only be able to use agents, but will be able to earn compensation from their image, name, or likeness, which includes entering endorsement deals. Players must disclose contracts to their school before signing and may not enter into apparel contracts that conflict with their school. The legislation, however, won’t go into effect until Dec. 31, 2022. 

Michigan is the fourth state to pass such legislation, following California, Colorado and Florida respectively. 

Discussion regarding compensation for student athletes has circulated for years. In 2009 an antitrust class action lawsuit was filed by Ed O’Bannon, former UCLA basketball player, against the NCAA, alleging the organization and colleges of profiting off of student athletes’ name, image, and likeness without being paid. The U. S. District Court for the Northern District of California judge sided with the plaintiffs and the NCAA agreed to allow students to receive full scholarships as compensation. Since then, several additional lawsuits have been filed, such as NCAA v. Alston, which is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many of the arguments against athlete compensation beyond full college scholarships have ranged from the desire to keep amateur and professional sports separate to the implications new rules could have on recruitment. 

In May 2019, in the midst of states already passing their own legislation, the NCAA set up a working group to look into making adjustments to its national rules. That October, the NCAA Board of Governors voted unanimously to modernize name, image, and likeness rules and directed its three divisions to begin updating their rules for a final vote at the annual NCAA convention, which takes place this month. 

“I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is that today’s collegiate athletics are a multi-billion dollar corporation, especially at the Division I level,” says Hackett Catholic Prep athletic director Chris Abid, who tends to agree with both sides of the issue. “Those programs make tens of millions of dollars annually for their school and not just for the department, for the institution, and, with that being said, the people who are out there kind of earning those dollars, don’t necessarily get compensated for it.” 

In 2019 the total revenue reported among all NCAA athletics departments was $18.9 billion. 

“I would argue to a point, especially being an educator, that if somebody walked up to me and said, ‘you get a full ride to the University of Michigan, you get to get a degree, maybe even a master’s degree for free, if you come play the greatest sport ever made, football, for us,’ I would think that’s a pretty good deal.” 

Calvin Hyde, a 17-year-old basketball and lacrosse player at Northview High School, supports the recent legislation because he feels that athletes are building a career. 

“As I’ve grown up in the basketball community, I’ve started to notice that it’s basically all about branding yourself and putting yourself out there so that colleges can find you and creating a social media presence,” Hyde says. 

“[Athletes] don't get to basically continue that branding of themselves, whether they want to be a professional athlete, or they just want to make themselves known so that they can go into say real estate or something after school and be a known entity,” he adds. 

Abid says one of the biggest unknowns to the new legislation is how it will affect recruitment. He thinks that the disparity between the haves and have nots will explode in college athletics. 

“If there’s money to be made for an 18-year-old kid to go play a sport somewhere based on whatever deals they obtain, whatever money that program has coming in, it completely changes the recruiting process and essentially becomes a free agency professional pool,” he says. 

When the NCAA’s Board of Governors voted to update its rules they also identified a list of principles to guide the changes, which included, “protecting the recruiting environment and prohibiting inducement to select, remain at, or transfer to a specific institution.” 

While several states have already passed their own legislation, the NCAA has stated that it supports federal, nationwide rules in order to maintain uniformity. 

The NCAA laws will be voted on this month and any changes would be put in place no later than the 2021-2022 academic year. 
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