US Senate Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection “Name, Image and Likeness: The State of Intercollegiate Athletic Compensation”
US Senate Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection -
“Name, Image and Likeness: The State of Intercollegiate Athletic Compensation”
Good morning, my name is Ramogi Huma. I’m a former UCLA football player and the Executive Director of the National College Players Association (The NCPA), a 501c3 nonprofit advocacy group comprised of over 20,000 current and former college athletes nationwide. First, I’d like to thank Chairman Moran, Ranking Member Blumenthal, and Members of the Subcommittee for allowing me to testify today.
College sports is a $14 billion per year commercial industry where multibillion-dollar TV revenues fuel multimillion-dollar salaries for coaches, administrators, and commissioners. The NCAA’s Basketball Tournament alone generates over $1 billion per year, and Under Armour is paying UCLA $280 million dollars to require UCLA players to serve as walking billboards to advertise its apparel. Meanwhile, the NCAA denies players 3rd party compensation claiming it’s to protect players from forces of commercialization. This double-standard has inflicted serious economic harm on countless college athletes, many of whom are from low income backgrounds.
The NCPA is a co-sponsor of California SB 206 known as the “Fair Pay to Play Act”, and is currently assisting 14 of an estimated 28 states that are pursuing similar legislation. In short, a wave of bipartisan action is sweeping across this nation in response to longstanding, unjust NCAA rules that deny college athletes economic freedoms afforded to other students and Americans.
As part of my written testimony for today, I submitted an updated white paper on this issue that was published last Friday, and I’ll cover some of the key advocacy positions included in that document:
First, federal legislation is not necessary for positive reform in this area, but there are reasonable provisions or “guardrails” that could be positive. For instance, Congress could prevent 3rd party compensation offers used as inducements to high school recruits and college transfers to attend a particular college. It could also ensure that colleges themselves don’t coordinate 3rd party athlete compensation. Similar to some of the state guardrails, they should be enacted directly through law and not through any NCAA antitrust exemption.
If Congress acts, it should also uphold the freedom for players to secure independent representation, which 28 states are currently pursuing. Congress should not grant the NCAA and its colleges the power to certify athlete agents and other representation because this representation would also be expected to represent players in disputes with the NCAA and colleges. Also, current NCAA rules are discriminatory as they only allow elite men’s basketball players the ability to secure agents while denying the same right to all female athletes. States are capable of setting athlete agent standards and many have already adopted such standards into law.
Additionally, the NCAA, conferences, and colleges should not be allowed to represent players in name, image, and likeness compensation agreements. And Congress should not appoint any entity to control college athletes’ group licensing rights, which the NCAA stated in December that it is asking Congress to do. The NCAA, conferences, and colleges are already taking advantage of players in this area by selling players’ rights and refusing to give them any compensation for it.
Again, some guardrails can be helpful, but there are serious concerns about the potential for even well-intentioned guardrails to serve as hammers, hammers that harm college athletes’ economic freedoms being unlocked by the states.
Some have proposed banning 3rd party compensation agreements from people and companies affiliated with players’ colleges. This would mean players couldn’t get a deal with Nike if Nike sponsored their college. They couldn’t get a deal with countless companies that contract with their college. If a fan that happens to be an alumni or donor, pays admission to a player autograph signing, the fan, player, and college could be in violation of federal law and be subject to punishments. Yet these are precisely the opportunities that states are seeking to open up to college athletes.
The states are realizing that proposals that would prohibit or cap college athletes’ opportunities in the name of competitive equity are especially problematic largely because competitive equity does not exist under current NCAA rules. In fact, after six years of legal scrutiny in the O’Bannon v. NCAA name, image, and likeness antitrust lawsuit, the federal courts came to this exact conclusion in their rulings. Colleges with the most revenue and wealthiest boosters have the largest recruiting budgets, hire the best coaches, build the best facilities, and in turn, they get the best recruits, win the most games, and score the richest TV deals allowing them to continue their dominance.
Importantly, if NCAA sports was truly committed to pursing competitive equity in recruiting and winning, they would ban booster payments to athletic programs and teams would share TV revenue equally like they do in other multibillion-dollar leagues. College athletes shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice their economic freedom and rights so the NCAA and its colleges can pretend that competitive equity exists while doing nothing about huge disparities in booster donations and athletic revenues.
Finally, the state legislation in question will have no affect on players’ employee status or Title IX because the payment would be from 3rd parties, not the colleges.
If Congress does act, it should advance college athlete freedoms being pursued by the states, not roll them back. Thank you.