GOP rep to introduce bill allowing NCAA athletes to profit from their likeness

GOP rep to introduce bill allowing NCAA athletes to profit from their likeness
© Greg Nash

Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerTo boost minority serving institutions, bipartisan Future Act needs immediate action Pressure rises on Cheney to make decision NCAA urges California governor not to sign 'fair pay' bill for college athletes MORE (R-N.C.) said Thursday he plans to introduce legislation that would allow NCAA student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.

Walker said he intends to introduce the Student-Athlete Equity Act next week, days before the start of the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, two of the largest annual events in college athletics.

"This is the time and the moment to be able to push back and defend the rights of these young adults,” Walker, a former college athlete, told the Raleigh News & Observer.

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The legislation would amend the definition of a qualified amateur sports organization in the tax code, lifting the restriction on student-athletes receiving compensation for their name and likeness, The News & Observer reported.

Under current NCAA regulations, players receive scholarships but are are unable to take any form of outside payment. Schools, meanwhile, can profit off of a student-athlete's likeness, selling jerseys and other promotional items. 

Walker argued that NCAA member schools would not be required to pay athletes themselves, but merely lift restrictions on student-athletes' earning potential. 

“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 told The News & Observer. “This is an earning opportunity for 99 percent of these student-athletes who will never have another access to do something like this."

Walker added that he's met with NCAA representatives, and is open to possible guidelines that don't include a blanket ban on player earnings.

The NCAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the legislation.

The NCAA has faced multiple legal challenges in recent years from parties pushing to expand benefits for student-athletes. A federal judge has yet to issue a ruling in Alston v. NCAA, a class action lawsuit that went to trial last fall arguing that a cap on the value of athletic scholarships prevents individual colleges from competing with each other for an athlete's services.