What products could BYU, college athletes endorse under NIL law?
With Senate Democrats and Republicans largely agreed on Wednesday that Congress should quickly pass legislation so college athletes can benefit from their name, image and likeness, a Utah senator says there are legitimate concerns what could happen if allowed.
Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, said it could raise questions at universities about the products that could support its student athletes.
“For example, my alma mater, Brigham Young University, would have some opinions on what products their athletes could support and what source they would come from, whether they might endorse products that are inconsistent with the university’s religious mission,” he said during a Senate hearing on Commerce, Science and Transport.
BYU, based in Provo, Utah, is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Negotiates to establish a national name, likeness, and standard of image for college athletes as states review and pass their own laws on the matter.
“There is broad consensus that Congress should pass a law that guarantees college athletes the right to … make agreements with third parties, the same right that all of their non-student athletes have,” Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss. Said at the hearing.
Lee said the product recommendation question isn’t limited to religious schools.
“I could think of many other schools that are not necessarily religious in nature and that want to raise concerns or limit the ability of athletes to endorse certain products,” he said.
Lee asked NCAA President Mark Emmert how universities would balance their interests against individual interests.
Emmert said guidelines under the NCAA review and legislative proposals have attempted to identify product categories, including alcohol, tobacco, illegal substances for athletes and gambling, that could prevent either the law or schools from sponsoring college athletes.
“I hope there is some way at the national level, but also at the institutional level, to make these decisions, and the student-athletes could then take that into account when making decisions about which institutions to attend,” he said.
Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Left, the senior member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation greets NCAA President Mark Emmert as the panel prepares a student athlete compensation hearing and federal bill to allow athletes Participate in college sports to monetize their name, image, and likeness at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press
Emmert called on Congress during the hearing to pass a national naming, likeness and image law to allow college athletes to compete on the same playing field. At least a dozen states will soon be implementing their own laws, but about 35 states will not have guidelines, he said.
Lee also asked how treating athletes as employees affects the structure of a university and whether this affects their tax-exempt status.
Emmert said transforming college athletes into university employees “is fundamentally blowing up college sports.”
“The idea of college athletes is that they are not employees, they are not hired professionals. In fact, it’s students who volunteer to exercise, ”he said.
Colleges would not participate in advertising contracts between athletes and other institutions, Emmert said.
“The university would not take part in these negotiations in any way,” he said.
Lee, as he has done in previous hearings on the matter, also questioned Emmert about the NCAA, which he called a “de facto college sports cartel,” in order to obtain partial or total exemption from antitrust laws.
“If you think the product you offer falls into the amateur and college sports category, is it so unique that it warrants the extraordinary move of little or no antitrust responsibility?” asked the senator.
Emmert said the NCAA had not advocated a full exemption but is trying to avoid “serial” litigation for either past or future lawsuits under a name, image and image law. He said two lawsuits were filed immediately after the NCAA’s board of governors, comprised of 24 university presidents, asked schools to adopt such guidelines.
“We try to avoid moving to a place where no good deed goes unpunished here. That’s the only thing that’s really taken into account, ”he said.
Lee said the antitrust problem needs to be addressed in the future.
“That doesn’t differentiate you from others who apply for antitrust exemption,” he told Emmert. “The possibility of litigation is an issue for everyone in the market.”
In April, Lee and several other Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives passed law to lift the Major League Baseball antitrust exemption.
As a professional sports league, baseball should understand the benefits of competition, Lee said at the time. Instead, baseball uses its “court-made” antitrust immunity to suppress wages and divide markets for decades – behavior that is clearly illegal and sometimes criminal in any other industry, he said.