Shortly after California passed legislation that will allow college athletes to maintain their amateur status even if they hire agents or get endorsement deals, Pennsylvania lawmakers entered the arena.
Two state representatives from Allegheny County proposed a bill that would allow college athletes in Pennsylvania to sign endorsement deals.
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Dan Miller and Ed Gainey, both Democrats, made the announcement last week. Their legislation, also known as the state “Fair Pay to Play Act,” would largely mirror California’s bill likely taking effect Jan. 1, 2023, and not apply to community colleges.
“Athletes are forced to give up their rights and economic freedom while the colleges make hundreds of millions of dollars off of their talent and likeness,” Miller said. “This bill would help to balance the scales by allowing them to sign endorsements, earn compensation, and hire agents to represent their interests in exchange for the work they do, and the benefit provided to the college.”
“Our student-athletes give their blood, sweat and tears to a sport they love, while colleges, universities and corporations reap the financial benefits of their work,” Gainey said. “If a college football head coach can earn $4.8 million for coaching ‘amateur student-athletes,’ and if corporations can earn billions of dollars using the players’ names and faces, then how is it not fair for them to earn some sort of financial compensation? The chances of a professional contract and thus a payout for all of their hard work and pain are tiny, and we owe it to them to level the playing field.”
The National College Players Association (NCPA) is the California-based group leading the lobbying to allow college athletes to get compensation. That group said Pennsylvania is one of at least four states where legislation modeled after the California law is in the works — the others include Florida, New York and South Carolina.
The NCAA has opposed the California law. In a statement last week, the NCAA said it should be allowed to come up with a national strategy to deal with compensation for student-athletes.
“As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide,” the NCAA said in a statement.
Penn State football coach James Franklin was asked about the proposal at his press conference last week. Franklin didn’t explicitly offer support or opposition to the legislation.
“I think everybody is very aware of it and we’ll continue to track it, and obviously, come up with some plans that are specific to Penn State as well as plans for the Big Ten Conference,” Franklin said.
And University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said he's "very concerned" with how California's new law allowing athletes to make money from their name and likeness will impact college sports.
"I wouldn't schedule anyone from California right now," Alvarez said during a sports panel last week organized by a Milwaukee radio station. "If they have different rules than we do, then all of a sudden they're not amateurs."
Miller said as college sports has become a much more lucrative endeavor for the colleges and other organizations linked to it, it makes sense that there be an adjustment to benefit athletes as well.
Miller said he first learned about the NCPA about seven years ago, and since then he’s been monitoring the controversy over whether college athletes should be paid. The NCPA’s effort has attracted the support of the United Steelworkers, based in Pittsburgh, he said.
Miller said he hopes the legislation attracts bipartisan support, but he added that at this point, he’s not even sure which committee the legislation will be assigned to. So, it’s difficult to gauge much traction the bill will get immediately.
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