Congressman to propose bill that would allow NCAA athletes to make a profit

North Carolina's Luke Maye (32) and Kenny Williams (24), and Syracuse's Oshae Brissett (11) battle for a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

College athletes and their supporters have been arguing for it for years on end. While making their ascent through the rankings of stardom, many college athletes are struggling to make ends meet practicing a full-time sport while their universities profit selling their name, images and likeness.

Think back on how popular college athletes such as Johnny Manziel were during their playing days. Now, think about the fact that of all the memorabilia sold with Manziel’s number and likeness — he failed to make a single cent for any of it.

Mark Walker, a Republican congressman representing North Carolina, plans to propose a bill that will allow NCAA athletes to be able to make a profit for themselves off their name, imagery and likeness from third parties. The bill will be called the Student-Athlete Equity Act, and Walker plans to roll it out next week, just ahead of the start of the NCAA tournament on March 19.

The proposal does not hold universities responsible for compensating athletes and would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to lift its current restrictions.

Walker stated that he has met with representatives of the NCAA to discuss the bill.

“Here’s the thing: We’re not asking the university,” Walker told the News & Observer. “We’re not asking the NCAA to pay a single dollar into this. You’ve done your part offering a full scholarship. Just don’t restrict the rest of it.”

The current rules of the NCAA do not allow for athletes to make a profit from third parties, nor does it state that the universities must pay their athletes — but that the university is allowed to profit off using the athlete’s name, imagery and likeness.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger tweeted his support for the bill Thursday afternoon.

These rules do not make the notion of playing college sports a viable option for many talented students nor does it grant players who can sacrifice financial means to be able invest to further progress their talents. Much like minor league baseball players, college athletes may often be excluding a budget for proper nutrition, training programs and equipment, or reasonable living situations.

"It’s just odd that in our free market system that this is the one area where we say, 'No. We'll let you make money for the university, but you can’t have any access to your name or likeness,'" Walker said. "This is an earning opportunity for 99% of these student athletes who will never have another access to do something like this. It's in that moment that your earning opportunity is prime."

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski showed support for the idea of allowing players to monetize their talents. “Make sure that the kid and his family are afforded the opportunity to max out like anyone else in our country what talent will give you,” Krzyzewski said at the 2018 NCAA tournament.

Ex-Duke basketball star Wendell Carter Jr.’s mother spoke out against the NCAA last May, likening the organization to “slavery and the prison system.”

Should this bill pass, it would be a great formative step forward for the rights of college athletes and hopefuls across the country.

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