The debate in college sports over allowing athletes to be compensated for the use of their name, image, and likeness took on a more serious shape on Wednesday when the NCAA released a report in support of athletes signing endorsement contracts and being paid for work off the field of play.
According to the report, an athlete’s school cannot be involved in the arrangement of contracts. And while athletes would be able to reference their school affiliation and the sport they play, the NCAA would shut down the use logos or school branding.
Yet as has become typical in this prolonged battle, the report was served with so many qualifiers that it merely sets the stage for further negotiating rather than legitimate promise for athletes.
At the center of the controversy over the NCAA report is the NCAA’s desire to work with Congress on legislation that would grant the governing body jurisdiction over all athlete compensation. The NCAA is using the guise of “antitrust” concerns to push the federal government, and earning new detractors in the process.
“Today is either the day that a wall of injustice around student-athletes started to crumble, or the day the NCAA used more tactics to bait and switch young men and women from some of America’s most vulnerable communities,” U.S. Rep. Mark Walker told ESPN, also noting that antitrust regulations could also allow the NCAA to overreach in other areas of athlete oversight down the road.
Chris Murphy, a United States Senator from Connecticut, was similarly pessimistic in his response.
This proposal is one step forward, one step back.
The NCAA wants to limit athlete endorsement deals in a way that could make them totally impractical.
And the NCAA wants Congress to give it total power of athletes' compensation. That should be a non-starter. https://t.co/G83zfkHf1i
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) April 29, 2020
If the NCAA wants bipartisan support in Congress for governing powers over athletes’ name, image, and likeness compensation, they seemingly have a long way to go to earn it. NCAA president Mark Emmert reiterated the need for federal guidance, while Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said “it’s vitally important that we maintain some level of integrity and fairness.”
For many, the NCAA’s push toward an agreement with athletes will be seen as too little too late. Taking Ackerman at face value is the right thing to do, but integrity and fairness are unlikely to be the first words to be associated with the NCAA by anyone who follows college sports. Surely, there has to be some kind of oversight, but the first draft of a partnership with these young athletes is already looking like a half-measure.