If it’s good enough for California, it’s good enough for the entire country. This must be the stance of Ohio Representative Anthony Gonzalez, who has submitted a federal bill in response to California’s recent decision to allow college athletes to sell themselves. Gonzalez, who was an Ohio State football star and an NFL pro for five years, understands first-hand what college athletes go through and wants the federal government to step up before it’s too late.
California Governor Gavin Newsom approved a bill this week, against the wishes of the NCAA, that allows college athletes to seek endorsement deals and sell their likeness, essentially offering themselves as a brand. The NCAA has always prevented college sports stars from profiting from their status and has even tried to penalize states that don’t fall in and support its rules.
However, California lawmakers realized that college athletes are just as deserving as pros of making money from endorsements, and is challenging the control NCAA has tried to wield over the country.
“I actually think that we need to do something quickly, within the next year,” Gonzalez told ESPN. “I don’t think you have three years to figure this out. I think decisions will start happening immediately.”
The reference to three years comes directly from California’s law. It stipulates that the endorsement possibilities won’t be legal until 2023, which state lawmakers feel gives enough time for all the fine-tuning of the program to be completed.
California’s law was, in a way, meant to push the NCAA into updating its policies. Several states have already started working on similar bills in order to compete against the Golden State, and there’s no doubt the sports authority feels threatened. It would reportedly support a nationwide law, which would save it the hassle of having to update its own guidelines.
Gonzalez’s measure would also help to protect athletes. Realizing that there are certain entities that are more than happy to try to take advantage of inexperienced college athletes, Gonzalez worked language into the bill to offer better security against these “bad actors,” as he calls them.
“There are a lot of people who are trying to get a piece of the athlete who do not have their best interest in mind and are out for nefarious means,” Gonzalez said. “You can imagine a world where, if there were no guardrails in place, that it could get out of hand pretty quickly. That’s the lane you’re trying to carve. How do you do this to provide necessary and deserved benefits while not inviting a bigger problem alongside it?”
The subject of endorsements at the college level is getting a lot of attention across the country, from the press to state legislators and on Capitol Hill. There is a similar bill in Congress that was introduced by North Carolina Representative Mark Walker that takes a slightly different approach than that Gonzalez is preparing. It would force the NCAA to take action and allow players to seek endorsements or lose certain nonprofit tax exemptions. It is already being discussed by the House Ways and Means Committee, but is still being tweaked.
Gonzalez is expected to formally submit his bill within the next couple of months. He indicates that he isn’t quite ready because he went to the athletic director for Ohio State, Gene Smith, for input. Smith is a member of a working group the NCAA put together to look into the endorsement activity as a whole. The lawmaker wants to have Smith’s recommendations, expected to be delivered to the NCAA Board of Governors by the end of this month, before he moves forward and shares his legislation with others in Congress.