Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio introduced the first bill in the U.S. Senate to compensate college athletes for their names, images and likenesses, the latest legislative effort to give college athletes across the country the ability to make money from their athletic talents.
Rubio’s bill, the Fairness in College Athletics Act, would create a national standard for college athletes to legally get paid for activities like promotional appearances, signing autographs or having their image used in advertising campaigns for televised sports. The bill’s introduction comes one week after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that would allow college athletes in Florida to be paid for their names, images and likenesses. California and Colorado have passed similar legislation at the state level.
Rubio said it’s important for Congress to pass a national law so college athletes can play at the school of their choice without being subject to different state-level regulations.
“As an avid collegiate athletics fan, and a former football player, this is an issue that is important to me,” Rubio said in a statement. “As states continue to pass laws determining how college athletes can be compensated for their name, image, and likeness, it is clear that a patchwork of 50 state laws would be devastating to college sports. The Fairness in Collegiate Athletics Act is an effort to ensure the NCAA implements policies for [name, image and likeness] and even the playing field.”
The bill would require the NCAA and other intercollegiate athletic associations to set up compensation rules for their athletes by June 30, 2021, one day before Florida’s state law is scheduled to go into effect. The athlete would be required to disclose the payments to the NCAA and college but preserve the person’s amateur status because they would not be paid directly for participating in athletics.
The bill preempts any state-level athlete compensation laws and includes provisions to ensure the recruiting process isn’t co-opted by boosters. The Federal Trade Commission would enforce the law.
“It’s a bill that basically tells the NCAA they have until the end of June of next year to either come up with rules for this to be possible that will supersede the state rules and become the national standard or the Federal Trade Commission will have the authority to do it,” Rubio said in a video message.
Rubio’s bill has support from two major college athletic conferences, the ACC and SEC. Five of Florida’s seven Football Bowl Subdivision colleges released statements supporting the bill: the University of Florida, Florida State, the University of Miami, University of South Florida and Florida International University.
Florida State University president John Thrasher said the bill would “preserve the character and quality of college sports, as well as help maintain emphasis on academic achievement, foster a level playing field for recruiting, and protect student athletes from unscrupulous actors.”
Rubio was part of a group of senators from both parties who formed a working group to discuss the issue of compensating college athletes, though he introduced the bill on his own to speed up the process before Florida’s law goes into effect in 2021.
Rubio’s legislation is the first Senate bill on the issue, though North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Walker has introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives and Ohio Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a former Ohio State and NFL football player, plans to introduce another bill in the House of Representatives this summer.