Gov. Whitmer signs bills allowing college athletes to earn money through sponsorships, ads

Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read

In the coming years, collegiate athletes in Michigan could be allowed to earn sponsorship or advertising money without risking their eligibility.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bills Wednesday that would allow athletes to be compensated for their name, image or likenesses. The bills also repeal criminal penalties associated with college athletes hiring agents or receiving gifts.

Although the bulk of the measures do not take effect until 2023, they are part of a national movement to allow college athletes to get paid without repercussions.

“For years we have all enjoyed the incredible talent of young athletes across the state. This legislation will change the lives of young men and women for years to come,” Whitmer said in a news release.

HOW IT PASSED IN SENATE: Bills allow college athletes to earn money through endorsements

"I am hopeful that the NCAA will set a national standard so that all players across the country are afforded the same opportunities. As always stay safe and go green!”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appears in a press conference on Oct. 28. 2020.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appears in a press conference on Oct. 28. 2020.

At least five other states have passed similar legislation: California, Florida, Colorado, Nebraska and New Jersey.

Right now, college athletes across the country are largely banned from earning money or other compensation apart from scholarships when they agree to play a varsity sport. At the same time, colleges, coaches, the NCAA, conferences and others earn billions every year through college football, basketball and other sports. This arrangement has sparked considerable debate and lawsuits for years.

NCAA'S MOVE: Proposed rules changes related to athletes' name, image and likeness

In November, the NCAA unveiled details of proposed rule changes that would allow athletes to be compensated for their names, images and likenesses. The proposals are set for final approval by the NCAA Division I Council on Jan. 11 and the Division I Board of Directors on Jan. 14, as reported by USA Today.

However, the NCAA and athletic conferences are still battling with athletes in court. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that could also drastically change compensation rules for collegiate athletes.

Several U.S. senators also recently introduced federal legislation that would broadly expand the ability of college athletes around the country to be compensated.

The Michigan legislation outlines parameters for how athletes could enter into specific endorsement or sponsorship deals. If these athletes follow the rules, their university or college, athletic conference and the NCAA could not revoke a scholarship or otherwise punish the student athlete for signing a deal, under the new law.

The law bans students from signing contracts that would conflict with current university deals. For example, if a university already had a contract with Nike for cleats worn during a game, an athlete attending that school could not have a deal with Reebok or any other similar company that required the athlete to wear non-Nike cleats during a game.

While other states also have similar provisions in their bills, this appears to be in conflict with some of the proposed changes to compensation rules set for discussion on January.

Given the lengthy delay in time before the Michigan law takes effect, there's a very real chance national legislation is passed, the NCAA institutes sweeping changes or Michigan lawmakers tweak the law again before athletes in the state are actually allowed to get paid.

HOW THE BILL CAME ABOUT: Democratic senators introduce 'College Athletes Bill of Rights' that could reshape NCAA

State Reps. Brandt Iden, R-Kalamazoo, and Joe Tate, D-Detroit, worked together on the legislation. Both measures passed the Michigan House and Senate with widespread bipartisan support.

“At its core, this legislation is to ensure student-athletes in Michigan are treated fairly and they are able to have (a) fulfilling college experience. I am proud of the opportunity to work on getting this legislation across the finish line,” Tate said in Whitmer's news release.

The Michigan legislation also requires nonprofit trade groups representing colleges and universities to provide reports to the Legislature on any changes made by the NCAA and Congress as to whether student athletes can be paid. This section of the law goes into effect immediately.

USA TODAY staff writer Steve Berkowitz contributed to this report.

Contact Dave Boucher at dboucher@freepress.com or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Gov. Whitmer signs bill allowing college athletes to earn extra money