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Should college athletes be paid for their name or likeness?

Jeremiah Carter, University of Minnesota athletic compliance director, testifies on HF3908, sponsored by Rep. Brad Tabke, left, in the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Division March 4. The bill would allow student athletes to be compensated for us

It started with a video game. When Ed O’Bannon, a former college basketball player, found an animated version of himself on EA Sports’ “NCAA Basketball 09” game, he demanded to be paid for the use of his very detailed likeness. So he filed suit against EA Sports and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

In September, California became the first state to place into law the provision that the state’s student-athletes should be allowed to profit from their “name, image and likeness.” Taking it as a challenge to its policy of strictly amateur participation in college sports, the NCAA threatened litigation, but soon changed course and decided to negotiate new rules that it has said it hopes to have in place by early 2021.

In the meantime, 16 other states have introduced legislation modeled upon the California law. This week, Minnesota joined them.

Student athlete compensation bill heard 3/4/20

HF3908, sponsored by Rep. Brad Tabke (DFL-Shakopee), was debated at Wednesday’s meeting of the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee. The bill would allow college athletes to be paid by third parties for the use of their name, image and likeness in advertising or other capacities. It would also likely allow college athletes to monetize their social media accounts, autograph sessions or conducting of clinics.

After about a half-hour of questions from members, the division’s chair, Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL-New Brighton), concluded that “there’s more work to be done here and a lot of questions,” and the bill was tabled for later consideration.

Much of the uncertainty about the bill stemmed from its Jan. 1, 2023 effective date. Until then, Tabke said, a lot will depend upon what changes in rules and policy the NCAA makes.

“The NCAA is working on that,” he said. “Lots of lines in the sand will need to be drawn. … I don’t think anyone wants car dealerships paying athletes to go to school there.”

But Tabke’s bill is unclear as to how it would prevent such a scenario. Some of the confusion among division members may have partially stemmed from Tabke twice referring to it as a “pay to play” bill, whereas that term is more frequently used in the controversy over whether major college football and basketball players should be paid to compete. HF3908 seems more geared toward endorsement deals and marketing promotions.

The bill has a Senate companion in SF2995, sponsored by Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes). It’s been referred to the Senate Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee.

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