The federal movement to grant college athletes greater individual rights could be picking up steam in the coming months.
There’s already one federal bill filed that would allow college athletes to accept sponsorship and endorsement money. Now former Ohio State wide receiver and current U.S. House member Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) says he wants to introduce legislation regarding the athlete-rights topic.
Gonzalez doesn’t have any specifics though. He told ESPN.com that he wants to wait until an NCAA working group chaired by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith makes its recommendations for potential modifications to the governing body’s image and likeness rules. The NCAA currently prohibits athletes from making money off their standing as athletes and a California bill signed into law effective in 2023 that would allow California college athletes to get endorsements was signed on Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Gonzalez said he has had informal conversations on the subject with Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, the co-leader of a working group assembled by the NCAA to evaluate ways in which the association could change its rules on name, image and likeness rights. Smith is expected to report the group's recommendations to the NCAA's board of governors at the end of October.
Gonzalez plans to wait to draft his legislation until after Smith makes his recommendation to the NCAA. Gonzalez said he has examined the issue with his staff in the past, but their conversation "kicked into gear" after California passed its new law Monday.
Smith: California schools ‘won’t be members’ of NCAA
Smith told USA Today a week ago that Ohio State wouldn’t schedule California schools in the future because he didn’t think those schools would be members of the NCAA given the contradiction between the NCAA’s rules and the new law.
His working group is meeting in late October to discuss any changes to the NCAA’s current endorsement prohibition. Recommendations of sweeping change seem unlikely to come from those meetings given NCAA and school administrators’ strong opposition to the California law. The NCAA even called the California law “unconstitutional” in a letter to Newsom in an attempt to stop him from signing the bill into law.
Any potential legislation filed by Gonzalez would be the second federal athlete-rights bill. North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker (R) has a bill in committee right now that would allow college athletes to make money off their image rights through sponsorships and endorsements. If the working group’s recommendations don’t go that far and Gonzalez models his proposal after them, Gonzalez’s bill could end up being a much smaller step than Walker’s.
Gonzalez, 35, was elected to his post representing Ohio’s 16th district in 2018. A former first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, Gonzalez played in the NFL for five seasons and had 99 career catches.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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