CLEVELAND — The NFL Draft will soon bring to Cleveland some of the best players in college football as they get set to cash in on the riches of a career in professional sports but it’s a reward most college athletes never see.
College sports is a moneymaker for universities but the athletes themselves have historically received nothing beyond their education. In 2019, California passed the Fair Pay to Play Act that would allow student-athletes for the first time to make money off their name, image or likeness, they could even hire an agent. It was a move that then opened the floodgates as states didn't want to lose athletes to schools in other states where they could make money.
"Since that day almost every state has introduced and about a third of them have passed their own versions,” said Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH). The end result is a situation where each state is coming up with its own set of laws governing college sports.
"I think that's chaos,” he said. “So what we really need is one Federal standard that every college athlete all across the country will have that they can adhere to."
That's why Gonzalez, a former student-athlete, is re-introducing the Student-Athlete Level Playing Field Act, a federal law that will supersede the individual state laws while extending this economic right to college athletes.
"Who are the only people in the country that I'm aware of who can't use their own name, image, and likeness,” he said.
Players could get paid for things like video games, autograph sessions, or tv commercials. What it wouldn't do is have universities outright pay student-athletes as some have called for, which would make them employees.
"I've spoken to enough universities who have told me flat out if we have to employ and pay our student-athletes we're just not going to do sports anymore because that's not who we are. We're an educational institute."
Gonzalez doesn’t reflect so much how the bi-partisan measure might have helped him at Ohio State but he said he really would have helped student-athletes like his wife who was a swimmer in college but because of NCAA rules was not allowed to take a paid job giving swimming lessons.
“This would allow her and any athlete the opportunity to do just these simple, basic things,” he said.