Kentucky Senate passes ‘national model’ name, image, likeness measure

Senators voted 37-0 to send the legislation to the House.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/AP) — The Kentucky Senate passed a measure Thursday to regulate name, image and likeness compensation for college athletes, a day after the strategy won an endorsement from University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari.

Senators voted 37-0 to send the legislation to the House.

Lawmakers in statehouses across the country are wrangling with the high-stakes issue, as millions of dollars pour into endorsements for college athletes.

In Kentucky, college athletes have been able to make money off their name, image and likeness since last summer, when an executive order signed by Gov. Andy Beshear took effect. His action was seen as a short-term response pending state or national action.

“Times are changing,” Republican Sen. Max Wise said Thursday in promoting the Kentucky bill. “And Kentucky needs to keep up with the changing nature of this issue and to lead upon this.”

The governing boards of universities could adopt policies governing the NIL agreements of their school’s athletes. But those regulations would have to be reasonable and could not put an undue burden on the ability of student-athletes to earn NIL money.

Calipari told a Senate committee Wednesday that the bill offers a “model” approach, providing flexibility to respond to the still-evolving issue.

The bill allows collegiate athletes to make money using their NIL and coordinate with an agent in those efforts; it also sets necessary parameters.

“Today’s achievement was the result of partnerships and collaboration amongst all of our Commonwealth’s higher education institutions and bipartisan work on a policy issue that is changing the landscape of college athletics daily,” Wise said. “Senate Bill 6 will provide flexibility for the university institutions while benefiting the student athletes at Kentucky colleges and universities.”

During Wednesday’s committee testimony, Calipari referred to Senate Bill 6 as ‘model legislation’ and said that the Senate’s leadership is the next best thing to federal NIL legislation. The federal government and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have failed to lead on this issue, requiring state lawmakers to take action.

It is no secret the NCAA, entities and organizations that broadcast events as well as universities financially benefit from the talents displayed by young athletes. Collegiate athletes NIL generate profit and promote university attendance. According to a publication from Christen Gough, a U.S. and global researcher specializing in the sports industry, the NCAA generated more than $800 million in revenue from television and marketing rights fees in 2019.

Additionally, some collegiate athletes seek financial stability for themselves and their families. In some cases, they have to choose between furthering their education and taking professional opportunities while they are available.

Emphasizing the student aspect of being a collegiate athlete, Sen. Danny Carroll asked Calipari if he thought Senate Bill 6 would lead more young people to further their education before advancing to professional sports.

“The kids that have made mistakes leaving early will stay because of this legislation,” Calipari said.

The legislation aims to protect young people from those who may try to take advantage of them. Senate Bill 6 assures that collegiate athletes are aware and educated on NIL.

Colleges and universities will be permitted to implement reasonable restrictions on NIL. The bill requires universities to educate collegiate athletes on matters related to NIL, ensuring that educational efforts include information concerning financial aid, debt management, saving and budgeting best practices, time management, available academic resources, and the skills necessary for success a collegiate athlete. Universities must also give collegiate athletes access to a workshop for social media and brand management education.

Under Senate Bill 6, collegiate athletes would be prohibited from endorsing illegal products and sports betting.

The newest addition to the Kentucky state Senate, Sen. Donald Douglas (R-Nicholasville), rose to support Senate Bill 6. Douglas has experience as an athlete, qualifying for Olympic Trials twice and was ranked 11th in the U.S. and 17th in the world in 400m hurdles.

“This bill is not only for the student athletes with scholarships or professional prospects. I view this bill as helpful for the forgotten athletes and discovered athletes,” Douglas said.

“Some students reach college on scholarships, and whether it’s injury or competition, sometimes they don’t reach that next level. On the other hand, there are cases where athletes come out of nowhere as a walk-on and find success. I think this bill can be financially beneficial to many in various ways,” Douglas said.

Senate Bill 6 passed unanimously and will now be considered by the state House.

“Kentucky chooses to lead,” Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said. “Where others have refused to act, this governing body will, and we will be a model others seek to emulate.”

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