NCAA opens door to athletes benefiting from name, image and likeness

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

NCAA opens door to athletes benefiting from name, image and likeness

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NCAA opens door to athletes benefiting from name, image and likeness

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ATLANTA — The NCAA’s top policy-making group on Tuesday voted “unanimously to permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model,” the association said in a news release.

The release followed a Board of Governors meeting in Atlanta at which the group received a report from a special working group that had been appointed in May to examine the name, image and likeness issue.

The statement about the board action did not provide specifics, but said changes to NCAA rules in each of the three divisions could occur immediately, as long as they occur within principles and guidelines that include:

  • Assuring student-athletes are treated similarly to non-athlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate.
  • Maintaining the priorities of education and the collegiate experience to provide opportunities for student-athlete success.
  • Ensuring rules are transparent, focused and enforceable and facilitate fair and balanced competition.
  • Making clear the distinction between collegiate and professional opportunities.
  • Making clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible.
  • Reaffirming that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university.

Speaking in Atlanta immediately after the board meeting, even NCAA President Mark Emmert said that threading those general principles into meaningful rules changes for Division I schools will be challenging.

“In creating a system for allowing students to take advantage of name, image and likeness,” Emmert said, “one of the biggest concerns the working group has spent a lot of time on — and is going to keep spending time on — is how do you allow liberalization and not have it just become part of the recruiting wars? That’s going to be one of the biggest challenges in coming up with real bylaws.”

The board said the working group will continue to gather feedback through April 2020 and it asked each of the associations’s three divisions to make rules changes no later than January 2021.

The NCAA’s action comes about a month after California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that will make it easier for college athletes in the state to profit from their own name, image and likeness, beginning in 2023. California was the first state to enact a law, but there is a bill pending in Congress from Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C,) and measures in process in several other states.

“There’s no question the legislative efforts in Congress and various states has been a catalyst to change,” Emmert said. “It’s clear that schools and the presidents are listening and have heard loud and clear that everyone agrees this is an area that needs to be addressed.”

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