A pair of senators, Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, announced a bill to the House and Senate that would allow athletes to unionize, giving them the ability to organize and collectively bargain with their school or conference.
According to Murphy, this NCAA has historically prevented its athletes from receiving economic benefits, while treating them like “commodities”. If the bill were to be approved, athletes would become considered as employees of the university, meaning they would receive financial aid or other forms of compensation for their participation in collegiate athletics.
The NCAA quickly responded to the bill proposal, issuing a statement saying:
“College athletes are students and not employees of their college or university. This bill would directly undercut the purpose of college: earning a degree. The NCAA and its member schools support student-athletes through scholarships – many of which cover their full cost of education debt free – and numerous other benefits. NCAA members also are committed to modernizing name, image and likeness rules so student-athletes can benefit from those opportunities but not become employees of their school. We will continue to work with members of Congress to focus on issues that align with our priorities. But turning student-athletes into union employees is not the answer.”
Several states have already passed bills that will allow athletes competing within the state to earn money for use of their name, image, and likeness by the NCAA. Mississippi, New Mexico, Alabama, and Florida have already announced that athletes in each state will be able to profit off of the use of their name-image-likeness beginning on June 1, 2021, while athletes California and Colorado will be able to profit beginning in 2023. In Florida, athletes would be allowed to benefit from their social media, as well as personal businesses and appearances, but only under certain guiding principles.
Just this week, the Texas Senate sent a bill to Governor Greg Abbott for approval that would allow collegiate athletes to receive money via endorsements and sponsorships. Should it be approved, it would take effect a month after the other states, on July 1st.
As individual states have begun to modernize their NIL policies, the NCAA has been much slower to update its rules. The NCAA Board of Governors was set to vote on an updated version of the rules earlier this year, before delaying the vote an undisclosed amount of time. They are currently expected to vote on an updated version of the rules during a meeting at the end of June.