GOP lawmaker optimistic NCAA bill will be signed into law this year

Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerRepublicans, Democrats offer support after John Lewis cancer diagnosis House GOP vows to use impeachment to cut into Democratic majority A solemn impeachment day on Capitol Hill MORE (R-N.C.) on Tuesday said he fully expects Congress to pass a bipartisan bill that would allow NCAA athletes to profit off their image and likeness.

Walker this month introduced legislation co-sponsored by Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondCongress struggles on rules for cyber warfare with Iran Election security, ransomware dominate cyber concerns for 2020 Trump nominates DHS senior cyber director MORE (D-La.) that would upend the NCAA’s economic model by amending the tax code's definition of an amateur to allow student-athletes to get paid whenever they appear in videos or other forms of public media.

“This is not a show piece of legislation," he told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball. “This is something that I think is very important.”

Walker said he expects the bill will have no trouble passing the House and Senate and that “hopefully” President TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial MORE will sign it into law by the end of the year.

Walker added that over the past decade the Republican Party has gotten a “bad reputation” on social justice issues. But he pushed back on that perception, citing the Trump administration’s reforms on criminal justice and his NCAA bill as two counterexamples.

“If you look at the work that we’ve done in the injustice arena — working on criminal justice reform, both at the national level and some of our governors at the state level —this is another one of those areas because many of these student-athletes come from impoverished or underprivileged communities, and making the kind of money that the NCAA does on the backs of unpaid labor.”

The NCAA has faced multiple legal challenges in recent years as advocates push to expand the rights of student-athletes and allow them to receive outside pay.

A federal judge recently ruled that the NCAA can no longer prevent schools from capping the educational benefits they give to players. But the ruling stopped short of requiring the NCAA to change its model, meaning players still won’t be able to receive compensation.

—Tess Bonn