NCAA Clears The Way For College Athletes To Begin Profiting From Their Name, Image And Likeness

NCAA Clears The Way For College Athletes To Begin Profiting From Their Name, Image And Likeness

Lawmakers in a dozen states want college athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses. This acted as “a kick in the butt” for the NCAA which voted to modify its rules. Southern Mississippi wide receiver De’Michael Harris (18) and defensive end Praise Amaewhule (23) are pictured on a two-yard touchdown run during the NCAA college football game in Hattiesburg, Miss., Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Lawmakers in more than a dozen states want to create laws that allow college athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses, and this acted as “a kick in the butt” for the NCAA, which voted Tuesday to start the process of modifying its rules.

African American college athletes may have the most to gain. African Americans make up 12.3 percent of the general population but represent more than 57 percent of male student athletes in basketball and nearly 47 percent in football, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida.

On Tuesday, NCAA board members directed the organization’s three divisions to change the rules so college athletes have the same opportunities to make money as all other students and benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness. The board wants the new rules implemented by January 2021, according to a press release.

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This is a major shift for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which has historically insisted that college athletes are amateurs and cannot be paid. The NCAA regulates college athletes and its rules distinguish between college and professional sports.

“The board’s action today creates a path to enhance opportunities for student-athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is credited with forcing the NCAA’s hand. In September, he signed into law the Fair Pay to Play Act— a bill that requires state colleges to let college athletes earn money from licensing their own names, images and likenesses. More than 12 states have expressed interest in creating similar laws in the past several months, including Florida and Ohio, ESPN reported.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said Tuesday that the NCAA’s new rules would not follow the “California model” of a virtually unrestricted market.

Faced with a variety of solutions proposed in different states, NCAA leaders decided they’d rather control the narrative with a uniform national law or rule that applies to all members of their association.

State and federal laws provided the NCAA with “a kick in the butt” to speed up discussions that have already been held for several years, Smith said.

Not everyone is buying the NCAA’s sincerity about changing its rules. The National College Players Association was quick to point out an ulterior motive, Phil Harrison wrote for the Ohio State University Buckeyes Wire.

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“The @NCPANOW says the NCAA’s statement is ‘another attempt at stalling on this issue’ of allowing college athletes to benefit from their names, images & likenesses,” lawyer Darren Heitner tweeted. “Says it isn’t a green light to receive ‘compensation.’ Encourages states to keep working on passing legislation.”

In a SportsPro column, Heitner said it’s irresponsible to claim that the NCAA’s names, images and likenesses announcement will allow athletes to profit.

Ed O’Bannon and LeBron James helped push for athletes to get paid

Former NCAA basketball player and national champion Ed O’Bannon went to court to push for college athletes to be paid.

O’Bannon won an antitrust class-action lawsuit in 2014 against the NCAA. The suit challenged the organization’s use of the images of its former student athletes for commercial purposes. The suit argued that upon graduation, a former student athlete should be entitled to financial compensation for NCAA’s commercial uses of his or her image. The judge found the NCAA’s rules and bylaws unreasonably restrain trade and violate antitrust law. The NCAA settled for around $20 million and EA Sports settled a similar lawsuit for around $40 million.

NBA player LeBron James has long advocated for reforms in the NCAA. He tweeted his gratitude on Tuesday.

“It’s a beautiful day for all college athletes going forward from this day on! Thank you guys for allowing me to bring more light to it. I’m so proud of … everyone who has been fighting this fight.”

Responses to James’s celebratory tweet were mixed.


For lawyer Heitner, it’s way too soon for celebration. “The NCAA should have no role in the procurement nor negotiation of those opportunities,” Heitner wrote. “Let’s hold our applause until we figure out what this actually means. In the meantime, states and the federal government should not stop fighting for college athletes to be able to actually profit off of their publicity rights. The pressure on the NCAA must grow even stronger if we truly desire college athletes to have the same rights as every other individual on their respective college campuses.”