- Tom McMillen, President & CEO, LEAD1 Association
- Jon Solomon, Editorial Director, Sports & Society Program, Aspen Institute
- Ross Dellenger, National College Football Writer, Sports Illustrated
- Joe Briggs, Esq., Public Policy Counsel, NFLPA & Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University
While control of the U.S. Senate has still yet to be decided from this past week’s election, depending upon the outcome of the Senate runoff elections in January, this year’s election results may lead to some of the most transformational outcomes in college sports history. In that regard, on Tuesday, LEAD1 Association (“LEAD1”) hosted a virtual forum discussing the impact of the election and its possible impact on college sports, particularly as it relates to the issue of student-athlete name, image, and likeness (NIL) compensation. The panel, hosted by LEAD1 President and CEO, Tom McMillen, featured Jon Solomon, Editorial Director at the Aspen Institute, Ross Dellenger, National College Football Writer at Sports Illustrated, and Joe Briggs, Public Policy Counsel at the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).
McMillen opened the discussion by noting that a group of U.S. senators have planned to introduce a “college bill of rights” that would expand student-athlete benefits beyond just NIL. Dellenger underscored that Congress essentially has a “deadline” to pass federal legislation that would possibly preempt state NIL laws given that the Florida NIL bill would go into effect on July 1, 2021. Briggs stated that passing any NIL legislation before that time period would be an enormous challenge given that Congress is focused on COVID-19 relief. To that end, Solomon explained that it would be unlikely for the Senators behind the college bill of rights to compromise with a less expansive version of their NIL proposal. The panel also discussed the possibility of litigation if the NCAA were to pass NIL legislation with more guardrails on student-athletes than the state legislation being passed. The panel agreed that the NCAA could conceivably sue states, while McMillen noted that “some chaos may actually be good for college sports” in order for Congress to focus more on the issue.
Another topic of discussion centered around the possibility of Congress passing a moratorium that would essentially hit the pause button on state laws, if Congress failed to act by July 1, 2021. McMillen explained, however, that such possibility is unlikely given that 2021 is a year of redistricting so Members of Congress will be leery of pressuring their state legislators who may be redrawing their districts. Solomon added a novel point noting that states would be unlikely to stand down because public opinion has swayed in a direction of NIL being a sea change moment in the student-athlete compensation discussion. The panel also agreed that Senate Democrats will likely wait to pursue NIL legislation until after the runoff elections in January, which would reduce the likelihood of any legislation being passed in the lame-duck period. It is also worth noting that President-elect Joe Biden may want to weigh in on the legislation given that he and some of his top advisors have demonstrated interest in college sports over the years.
The panel concluded with discussion on whether full professionalization on college campuses is inevitable and some of the potential ramifications of a more expansive NIL law. In that regard, the panel agreed that rising excess compensation in college sports, such as coaches salaries, and buyouts, have led to this point. Plus, a more expansive NIL bill could lead to the cutting of more sports, and the NCAA possibly lowering its minimum sport requirement. All of which, could, in turn, impact our Olympic effort in this country.
This panel discussion played a follow-up role to LEAD1’s “COVID-19 Report,” released on Monday titled “Elections Have Consequences and So Will 2020’s Results on the Future of College Athletics.”