WASHINGTON – The feeble hope that Congress will pass a bill before July 1 to regulate athletes’ compensation is long dead. Now, the hope that such legislation will pass before the end of the calendar year is also diminishing.
Notable Republican senators are not expected to participate in Thursday’s latest Senate hearing on athletes’ compensation, a strong sign of the growing divide between the two sides on an issue that has sparked a widespread nationwide movement of state laws that threaten the fairness of NCAA sports.
The Senate Commerce Committee, the group with jurisdiction over the issue, is scheduled to hold a hearing on athletes’ rights eight days after the last hearing ended without marked progress toward federal legislation. Thursday’s hearing is different, for two reasons, from the other six held on Capitol Hill over the past 16 months: College athletes will serve as witnesses and leading Republicans will not be in attendance.
The hearing, led by the Senate’s majority party, the Democrats, is expected to be absent from many of the minority members of the Commerce Committee, legislators say. Illustrated Sports. These include, in particular, Senators Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) And Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.), The two conservative members of a five-person bipartisan task force exploring a compromise on a project of federal law to govern how College athletes earn money with their name, image and likeness (NIL).
Thursday’s hearing is important because it will include college athletes as witnesses, although only one of them is a current NCAA athlete. The list includes Christina Chenault, a former UCLA track star who just completed her eligibility; Kaira Brown, junior sprinter at Vanderbilt; and Sari Cureton, who recently played women’s basketball for Georgetown. The fourth witness is Martin McNair, father of Jordan McNair, the former Maryland soccer player who died in 2018 after suffering heatstroke during summer training.
On Wednesday afternoon, Wicker’s office released a statement announcing that he will not attend Thursday’s hearing and will instead communicate directly with the athletes. through a survey to solicit opinions on a NIL bill.
“Student athletes are the lifeblood of college sports and their voices must be heard in this NIL debate,” Wicker said. “Congress needs to develop legislation that protects your well-being as students and maximizes opportunities for young men and women to participate in the college sports system. While we have had ongoing discussions with student athletes, I am now reaching out to athletes across the country to solicit their opinions on what they would like to see in the NIL legislation. “
Blackburn’s office also confirmed that it will not participate on Thursday.
“Student-athletes should have been at the table from the beginning,” he said in a statement to SI. “This ‘redress’ hearing will not advance the ball on NIL legislation.”
The content of the audience could have influenced your decisions not to participate. McNair’s presence would suggest that the audience will focus, at least partially, on the medical care of athletes and the long-term medical care of former athletes. Democrats are aggressively pushing for any NIL bill to be broad in nature, encompassing health care and educational opportunities for former athletes, as well as transfer rights for current players. Republicans want a stricter bill that only addresses policies governing athletes’ compensation.
The debate – broad versus narrow – is at the center of ongoing negotiations between five senators who are trying to find a compromise on the legislation. Wicker and Blackburn have met with their Democratic counterparts Maria Cantwell (D., Washington), Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), And Cory Booker (D., NJ) in an attempt to introduce a bipartisan bill as the shadow of chaos. crawls over college sports.
A wild scene is only days away, say university administrators. Of the 19 states that have passed their own laws governing the NIL, six of them go into effect on July 1.
Schools in those states are expected to operate under state law, which not only differs from each other, but also conflicts with the NCAA’s own legislation, which is expected to pass and enact on July 1.
The radical movement to pass state NIL laws is heating up. The increase is at a dizzying rate. According to SI research and data from the Drake Group, the number of states that have passed laws has tripled in three months, with Texas is the latest state to join the fray.
The NCAA has spent months pleading with lawmakers to create uniformity on the issue by passing a congressional bill. But after months of negotiations, talks between the parties have recently stalled, mostly due to disagreements stemming from the breadth of a NIL bill. The scope of a federal bill took a turn when the landscape of Congress changed after the last election. Democrats took control of the White House and, most notably, the Senate, ushering in a new Commerce Committee chairman: Wicker was out and Cantwell was in.
Six months after the new leadership, progress on the legislation is slowing down. The two sides have gone at least a month without exchanging new material on the language of a bill, legislative aides told SI. Before the last hiatus, they were slowly moving toward a compromise.
There is a level of agreement on specific concepts of NIL, but the problem lies in elements that go beyond the athlete’s compensation.
That said, concessions have been made. For example, a revenue sharing provision has been removed. The two sides also agreed on some details related to medical care and educational opportunities for athletes who dropped out of college. For example, under the current proposal, schools would be required to provide athletes with medical care for five years after they leave school, rather than for life. There is a similar agreement for the duration of the scholarships, not for life, but for a certain defined number of years.
At the center of the delay, sources say, is a request by Republicans to grant the NCAA antitrust protection from retroactive and future lawsuits over NIL, something that Booker and Blumenthal strongly oppose.
Many hoped that a federal bill would begin passing through Congress in time to pass on July 1. Always a long shot, that hope died weeks ago. For some, the new deadline is the end of the year. It can be tricky. Congress is in the middle of one of its busiest work periods, which runs from June through the first week of August. Then the annual one-month fall recess begins, after which lawmakers don’t return until mid-September.
The scope of a bill was at the center of last week’s NIL hearing, where witnesses included NCAA President Mark Emmert, Gonzaga’s coach Mark Few, two sports policy professors, and the president of the University. by Howard, Wayne Frederick.
Witnesses and legislators publicly revealed their position on the issue. Frederick, representing low-income schools, told lawmakers that requiring smaller schools to be held accountable for medical bills and scholarships for former athletes could put a financial burden on them to the point that they might need to cut back. Olympic sports and entire sports departments. Emmert agreed. A sports policy professor, Michael McCann, sided with the NCAA, encouraging senators to draft a bill with NIL first before tackling broad legislation on the rights of college athletes.
“It doesn’t mean the other issues aren’t important,” McCann said. “They should be addressed.”
Democrats want them addressed now. Blumenthal said he would block any federal bill that is more restrictive and narrow than the strongest state law. Booker, who is not on the Commerce Committee but was given time to speak, opened the proceedings with a passionate speech to lawmakers to draft a comprehensive NIL bill.
Cantwell suggested that any bill should include provisions for athletes’ health care and that such expenditures, for small schools, could be funded by the richer NCAA Division I programs, a move that Emmert says was “feasible”.
It could be even more feasible now. A day after the hearing, news broke that the College Football Playoff is on track to expand from four to 12 teams, a decision that will result in increased revenue. In the current format, schools divide $ 475 million in CFP revenue annually. That number is expected to double, if not triple, with the addition of eight more games.
More from Ross Dellenger:
• Why 12 worked: within the creation of a new playoff model
• Hearing presents a possible solution to NIL’s biggest hurdle
• The hidden industry of name, image and likeness
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.