Colorado state senators plan to introduce bill to let NCAA athletes get paid

A pair of Colorado state senators are planning to introduce a bill that allows NCAA student-athletes to receive compensation from their university and through sponsorships. 

The legislation sponsored by state Sens. Jeff Bridges (D) and Owen Hill (R) would grant colleges and student-athletes the right to sue if the NCAA took action against their compensation, according to The Denver Post. The legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.

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The measure would include colleges and student-athletes in the state's consumer protection laws and allow students to get paid directly by universities. It would also pave the way for student-athletes to legally receive money via endorsement deals.

NCAA rules prohibiting compensation, endorsements and agent representation would be considered an unfair trade practice in the state if the law passed, CBS Denver noted.  

“My hope is this doesn’t end in a lawsuit,” Bridges told The Post. “This bill is about getting the NCAA to do the right thing.”

Hill argued that the current system "benefits a bunch of rich, mostly white people at the expense of mostly minority students." 

The GOP state lawmaker justified his stance by noting the amount of money the 2018 NCAA men's basketball tournament produced. The Post, citing Kantar Media estimates, reported that the tournament resulted in $1.29 billion in television ad revenue. 

It remains unclear when Hill and Bridges' legislation will be heard by Colorado lawmakers. CBS Denver notes that there is only four weeks remaining in this legislative session.

An aide to Bridges told The Hill that the lawmakers are working to get authorization for the bill’s introduction, which they hope will happen by next week. 

"Think about the championship games we just saw," Bridges said in an email to The Hill. "Schools flew out boosters and board members to these games, while the parents watched their kids play on TV if they couldn't afford to travel to the game themselves. That's just wrong. We have individuals and corporations making millions, even billions of dollars on these kids. They're sacrificing their time and their bodies for a scholarship, which is less than pennies on the dollar compared to what they earn for everyone else. They have a right to their fair share."

The measure comes as part of a large push from lawmakers around the country to allow NCAA athletes to get more benefits. Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) introduced a bill in March that would allow NCAA athletes to profit off their image and likeness. 

Officials within the NCAA have argued that student-athlete compensation has substantially improved over the years. Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson and Southland Conference Commissioner Tom Burnett noted in a Denver Post op-ed that student-athletes get stipends that cover the full "cost of attendance" and meal cards, among other things. 

“Our hope is that we can get a test case here, that we can break this cartel, and that we can really get these kids the compensation they deserve… scholarships are important, scholarships are valuable, but they are nothing compared to what it is these schools make off these kids,” Bridges told CBS Denver.

 
 
Updated: 5:59 p.m.