GOP lawmaker offers bill letting NCAA athletes profit from their image

GOP lawmaker offers bill letting NCAA athletes profit from their image
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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.) introduced a bill Thursday that would allow National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes to profit off their image and likeness. 

The Student-Athlete Equity Act, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondTwo former Congressional Black Caucus chairmen back Biden Election security funds caught in crosshairs of spending debate Lawmakers weigh responses to rash of ransomware attacks MORE (D-La.), would amend the definition of an amateur in the tax code to allow student-athletes to get paid when they appear in video games and other public media. 

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"Signing an athletic scholarship with a school should not be a moratorium on your rights to your name, image, and self-worth," Walker said in a statement. "It’s time to bring equity to student-athletes and fix the injustices that exist in the current NCAA model. After nearly two years of discussions with players and leaders, we are introducing legislation that won’t cost the NCAA or our schools a single dollar, while empowering college athletes with the same opportunities that every American should have in a free-market." 

Walker announced earlier this month his intention to introduce the bill. He noted Friday that NCAA member schools would not pay the players out of their own pockets but would allow students to accept outside payments. 

“Fans want the best for their teams' players,” said Brian Hess, executive director of Sports Fans Coalition. "For student-athletes, that starts with giving them back rights over their own image and likeness. College athletics provide outstanding educational opportunities to students, but that should not come at the sacrifice of their personal identity.” 

Current NCAA regulations allow players to obtain sports scholarships but prohibits them from taking any form of outside payment. Colleges and universities are allowed to profit off the student-athletes’ likeness by selling jerseys and other promotional items.

The NCAA has been under intense scrutiny in recent years over its prohibition on student-athlete outside pay. A federal judge is currently weighing a decision on a class-action lawsuit that went to trial last year arguing that an athletic scholarship cap curtails competition between individual colleges for an athlete’s services.