It has been said that states are laboratories of democracy. But in the case of universities allowing student athletes to profit off their names and likenesses, the states could instead be laboratories of chaos.
That’s the takeaway from testimony of higher education officials in the Kansas Statehouse earlier this month. A nationwide movement has emerged to allow student-athletes to profit from images. Unfortunately, a patchwork of state laws would create a complex hodgepodge, making some states more attractive to student athletes than others and generally showing confusion.
Make no mistake: Paying athletes for their likeness makes a certain sense. College sports as a field has long been accused of profiting handsomely from students while giving them precious little in return. This needs to change, and California (as usual) has stepped forward as the first state to do so.
Thirty states are considering laws that would allow for the same thing. But as those from higher educational institutions testified, that also leaves a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Given that a small number of students would likely profit from this rules change, how can scholarships and opportunities for other athletes while giving them precious little in return.
This needs to change, and California is leading the way in making a change.
Some 30 states are considering legislation that would allow for the same thing. But as those from higher educational institutions testified, that leaves a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Given that a small number of students would likely profit from this rules change, how can scholarships on opportunities for other athletes be preserved? What about athletes who played for faith-based institutions?
“We’re keeping that base educational core for that 98% who don’t have a name, image and likeness they can sell,” said the University of Kansas’ Jeff Long, “so they still have their tuition, room, board, books and fees, and get to compete for the Jayhawks and love the experience and learn from all those wonderful things that athletics teaches people. That’s where we’re focused.”
We urge caution and care as legislators look at this issue.
What appears needed is a true national approach. That means that senators and representatives in Washington, D.C., should come together and create a single, nationwide standard addressing these issues. Is that likely in today’s hyper-politicized and virus obsessed climate? Perhaps not.
But the national level is nonetheless where this situation should be resolved. For the good of student athletes, for the good of universities and for the sake of simple fairness.