Cleaver, Gonzalez Reintroduce Legislation to Grant Name, Image, and Likeness to Student Athletes With Bipartisan Support

Apr 26, 2021
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) — Today, United States Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) reintroduced the bipartisan Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act, legislation that would grant student athletes the right to capitalize off their name, image, and likeness (NIL). The bill was co-sponsored by the broad bipartisan coalition of Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Steve Stivers (R-OH) Sharice Davids (D-KS), Richard Hudson (R-NC), and Colin Allred (D-TX). The legislation would establish one federal NIL standard that safeguards the rights of students nationwide, while also protecting the recruitment process and preserving the college athletics system that Americans across the country love.

“College athletes have entertained the American people for generations—to the financial benefit of schools, administrators, and everyone except for the student athletes themselves,” said Congressman Cleaver. “With the NCAA’s failure to implement its self-stated goal of creating new NIL rules that level the playing field for athletes across the country, it’s clear the time has come for Congress to address this issue on a bipartisan basis. I’m proud to once again introduce the Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act with Congressman Gonzalez, which will rectify the economic injustice that currently exists within college athletics by granting athletes the right to capitalize off their NIL. It’s a common sense proposal that remedies the unacceptable status quo, and I look forward to working with Rep. Gonzalez to ensuring it becomes the law of the land.”

“I am proud to reintroduce the bipartisan Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act with Congressman Cleaver today. We have worked together on this issue for over a year now, and I believe that our proposal truly represents a bipartisan pathway to creating a federal NIL standard,” Gonzalez said. “We are facing a tight deadline with state laws taking effect just around the corner. The time for action on this issue is now. Student athletes have long deserved the right to profit from their NIL. Our bill would grant this right, while also protecting the integrity of the college sports system.”

“I believe it’s a matter of fairness that college athletes should be able to earn income off their own name, image, and likeness,” said Rep. Davis. “They put in a lot of time, training, and effort to be a part of our nation’s college athletic system and deserve to be compensated for their work. That’s why I’m co-sponsoring the bipartisan ‘Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act.’ Our legislation would pre-empt state laws on this issue and create one national standard for NIL policies governing student athletes. Student athletes should be entitled to earn a living off their hard work just like every other American.”

"To help support the many student athletes who call North Jersey home, and all those throughout the country, I'm proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation that creates one national standard and congressional oversight to help student athletes benefit from their own name, image, and likeness — to help them achieve the American dream," said Congressman Josh Gottheimer. "Our country loves to support college sports, and the student athletes and players deserve our full support too."

“As the Representative of several colleges and universities, including The Ohio State University and Ohio University, I want to ensure that the dedicated student athletes at those institutions are rewarded for their hard work and talent,” Stivers said. “Representative Gonzalez is someone who understands this issue firsthand, and I’m proud to join him in reintroducing this legislation.”

“College sports is big business for everyone involved except the athletes who make it possible. If they choose, student-athletes should be able to earn money from the use of their likeness the same way any other professional or amateur athlete can. As a former college football player, I’ve seen firsthand how student-athletes can be exploited while at the same time being unable to afford basic necessities. With state laws coming into effect soon, I’m happy to again work with Congressman Gonzalez and Congressman Cleaver on this bipartisan bill to implement a national standard and ensure our student-athletes are treated fairly,” said Congressman Colin Allred.

"As a former professional athlete, I know how hard athletes train to reach the collegiate level," said Davids. "They should be the ones benefitting from their own work and dedication, not special interests. It is important to remember, too, that these athletes are students first who have expenses like tuition, housing, and food. I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation that puts power back into the hands of athletes to reap the rewards of their own hard work."

The Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act would:

  • Grant student athletes the right to capitalize off their own name, image and likeness and engage in agent contracts;
  • Establish one federal standard that pre-empts any existing or prospective state law on NIL, creating one federal standard and a level playing field for college athletics;
  • Provide Congressional oversight by establishing a commission appointed by Congress made up of a variety of NIL stakeholders, including student athletes; and
  • Protect the recruitment process by amending federal law to include a definition of “boosters,” and details actions taken by boosters in the recruiting process that would be penalized through FTC enforcement.

As former student athletes, Cleaver and Gonzalez bring a unique viewpoint on NIL to the table. Cleaver played football for one year at Murray State before tranferring to Prairie View A&M University, where a knee injury ended his career early. Gonzalez was an Academic All-American at Ohio State where he played wide receiver and advocated for NIL rights as a student athlete.

Official text of the Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act is available here.

Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri's Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee's Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee; Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy; member of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress; member of the Committee on Homeland Security; and a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. A high-resolution photo of Congressman Cleaver is available here.