First appeared in BOXSCORE
By Aron Solomon
The recent draft legislation proposed by U.S. senators aims to establish federal standards and regulations for athletes’ health and safety, including name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights.
The bill was introduced by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
While the intention behind this legislation is to provide uniformity and protection for student-athletes, there are serious potential drawbacks to consider. The proposed legislation, which would preempt state laws and establish federal oversight, may not be in the best interest of student-athletes.
Here are some of the reasons why:
1. Lack of Flexibility:
One concern with federal standardization is the potential loss of flexibility for individual states to address the unique needs and circumstances of their student-athletes. Different states may have varying resources, priorities, and approaches to athlete health and safety. By imposing a one-size-fits-all approach, the proposed legislation could hinder states from implementing tailored solutions that better suit their student-athletes.
2. Delayed Implementation:
The process of establishing federal standards and regulations can be lengthy and bureaucratic. This could result in delays in implementing necessary changes to protect student-athletes’ health and safety. In the meantime, student-athletes may continue to face risks and challenges that could have been addressed more promptly through state-level initiatives.
3. Potential for Inadequate Oversight:
While federal oversight may seem like a comprehensive solution, it raises concerns about the ability to effectively monitor and enforce regulations across the entire nation. The scale and complexity of overseeing the health and safety of student-athletes at various institutions and levels of competition could pose challenges. State-level oversight may be better equipped to address the specific needs of their student-athletes and ensure compliance with regulations.
4. Loss of Autonomy for Student-Athletes:
Federal standardization may inadvertently limit the autonomy of student-athletes. By centralizing decision-making and regulation, student-athletes may have less control over their own health and safety. State-level laws and regulations can provide student-athletes with more agency and the ability to advocate for their specific needs and concerns.
As Florida lawyer John Lawlor observed, “National standards for how college athletes can be compensated could make sense as long as those uniform standards are fair for the athletes and doesn’t take away their autonomy – that always has to be the baseline consideration.”
Not to be outdone in the legislative process, Senators Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and Joe Manchin (?-WV) introduced on Tuesday a bipartisan bill called the Protecting Athletes, Schools, and Sports Act of 2023, also known as the Pass Act.
This bill also claims that it will establish fair and just federal standards for NIL rights in college athletics, which would protect student-athletes and ensure fair competition. The bill would also create a commission to oversee the implementation of these standards.
The senators have been working on this legislation for over a year and have received feedback from various stakeholders. While this bill is an effort to strike a balance between protecting student-athletes and preserving the integrity of college sports, as this poignant tweet points out, we went from bad to worse:
Aside from the absurdity of calling any bill with a Republican and Joe Manchin on it “bipartisan,” this bill is fiery trash when it comes to protecting athletes.
The tl;dr on this bill (“too long; don’t read”) is that there are currently zero states that give student-athletes such a bad deal. So forget about this.
In an ideal world, federal legislators would be much better at all of this and would understand when and where federal standards probably aren’t the way to go. This clearly isn’t the case with NIL legislation, primarily because NIL has proven itself such a shiny toy for lawmakers and politicians that they just can’t resist reaching for it, no matter their level of government.