North Carolina Congressman Mark Walker has declared his intentions to introduce the Student-Athlete Equity Act, which would allow NCAA student athletes to profit from the use of their name, likeness and image.
If approved, the bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and change the definition of a qualified amateur sports organization in the tax code.
The bill does not call on universities to pay student-athletes, but would instead open the doors for student-athletes to accept money from third-party sponsors.
“Signing on with a university, if you’re a student-athlete, should not be [a] moratorium on your rights as an individual. This is the time and the moment to be able to push back and defend the rights of these young adults,” said Walker, reports News & Observer.
“Here’s the thing: We’re not asking the university, we’re not asking the NCAA to pay a single dollar into this. You’ve done your part offering a full scholarship. Just don’t restrict the rest of it,” continued Walker.
A former collegiate athlete himself, Walker has said he is open to considering restrictions or guidelines, but does not believe the current all-or-nothing policy is fair.
Walker represents the 6th Congressional District of North Carolina, which includes the city of Greensboro, a popular host city for collegiate and professional sporting events alike. The nationally-renowned Greensboro Aquatic Center (GAC) is a long-time host for both the men’s and women’s ACC Championships for swimming & diving , as well as the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships throughout Divisions I, II, and III. Furthermore, Greensboro is also home to the ACC Hall of Champions and ACC Headquarters.
In 2018, Olympic gold medalists Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel both stepped away from illustrious NCAA careers to accept sponsorships from third-party brands. Despite going pro, both have remained with the Stanford swim team and are continuing with their educations. Swimming two or three years as an NCAA athlete only to turn pro half-way through an Olympic quad is relatively common among top collegiate swimmers–particularly those that already have Olympic experience, world records, or both.
It is difficult to gauge whether this bill would keep more athletes in the NCAA until their four years of eligibility is run out. Though swimming and diving are much different from other sports like football, baseball, basketball, and hockey, in that most professional swimmers who represent Team USA train with collegiate pro groups. The other big-ticket sports actually require athletes to join another team and physically move to a new city to train and compete. However, the purpose of the proposed legislation is not to recruit NCAA student-athletes away from their universities, but rather to give them the means to begin professional careers before graduation.