Michigan Lawmakers Introduce Legislation To Pay College Athletes

The plan would let athletes make money off their name, image and likeness.

WWJ News
November 06, 2019 - 5:26 pm

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

LANSING (WWJ) -- A pair of Michigan lawmakers, both former college athletes, have introduced a bipartisan plan to allow college athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness.

The legislation, brought forth by Reps. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo) and Joe Tate (D-Detroit) would allow student-athletes competing in the NCAA to receive compensation in exchange for using any forms of their name, image or likeness, similar to the landmark "Fair Pay to Play Act" passed by California earlier this fall.

Michigan becomes the latest state to make a push against the NCAA's amateurism rules, which currently prevent student-athletes from profiting of their name, image or likeness. As nearly a dozen states have introduced legislation addressing NIL rights, the NCAA's Board of Governors voted last month to allow athletes to make income off their NIL -- eventually. The association says it is working to establish new rules by the start of 2021, but details remain unclear.

Iden, who played tennis at Kalamazoo College, says the NCAA isn't moving fast enough.

"The billion-dollar business of college athletics is built upon the labor of student-athletes," Iden said. "TV contracts, merchandise sales and advertising deals with universities and conferences rise in value every year. While scholarships and aid clearly have an important value, we can and should allow student-athletes more opportunities to benefit from their own popularity."

When it comes to NIL rights, there are several ways student-athletes could profit -- including signing autographs or possibly appearing on a billboard -- but the Michigan legislation, unlike that introduced by a handful of states, athletes would not receive any share of ticket sales. All profits would come from a third party -- student-athletes would not be paid by the schools.

Tate was a starting offensive lineman at Michigan State from 2000-03, before playing two years in the NFL for the Jaguars, Rams and Falcons. He sponsored a bill that would allow agents to enter into contracts with student-athletes, which is currently against the law in Michigan. The NCAA currently prohibits student-athletes from hiring agents.

"Someone can set up a signing at their store and charge $25 per inscription, but the student-athlete providing that signature or inscription gets nothing under current NCAA bylaws. Athletes who are struggling to get by and unable to even have a little walking around money are going to be able to enter into the market through their current craft, and that’s a positive and just development," Tate said.

If signed into law, the plans would become effective in July 2020.