Reps. Cleaver, Gonzalez Unveil Bipartisan Bill to Grant Name, Image and Likeness Rights to College Athletes
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, United States Representatives and former college athletes Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) introduced the bipartisan Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act alongside Representatives Colin Allred (D-TX), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Steve Stivers (R-OH). The bill grants student athletes the right to capitalize off their own name, image, and likeness while including important guardrails for the recruitment process and leveling the national playing field by pre-empting the patchwork of state laws that have been signed into law or are pending in state legislatures.
“I want to be unequivocally clear: This is a civil rights issue,” said Congressman Cleaver. “For far too long college athletes across the country—many of whom are people of color—have been denied the basic right to control their name, image and likeness. What we wanted to do from the outset was come to a bipartisan consensus that puts forth a national framework that gives college athletes the same rights every other American in the country is already afforded. That’s exactly what this bill will do, and I’m proud we were able to put it together in a bipartisan way. As we know from our football days, it takes teamwork to make the dream work, and I want to thank Congressman Gonzalez for his willingness to put student-athletes first and work across the aisle in a way that will undoubtedly change lives for the better.”
“I am proud to introduce bipartisan legislation with Rep. Cleaver today that delivers meaningful reforms and will make a difference in the lives of student athletes of all levels of competition across the country,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “This bill has strong bipartisan support, highlighting that Congress can find a way to reach a bipartisan agreement on this important issue. I look forward to working with my colleagues to keep the momentum going and continuing our bipartisan work to provide NIL rights to student athletes and improve the college athletics system that Americans across the country know and love.”
The Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act promotes fairness for college athletes by granting student athletes the right to capitalize off their own name, image, and likeness including through contracts negotiated on their behalf by an agent. Furthermore, the bill safeguards the college athletics system as we know it by ensuring that universities cannot directly compensate student athletes from their name, image, and likeness. It also protects the recruitment process, and pre-empts existing and prospective state laws on name, image, and likeness that would create an uneven national playing field.
“I’m proud to represent many talented student athletes at colleges and universities throughout Ohio’s 15th District, including The Ohio State University and Ohio University,” said Congressman Stivers. “I’m joining with Representatives Gonzalez and Cleaver to stand up for them, and ensure that they are rewarded for their hard work and talent.”
“For far too long corporate sponsors, universities and broadcast outlets have made money off of college sports. The ones not benefiting financially are the athletes,” said Congresswoman Fudge. “It is time for a change and we cannot leave it up to the NCAA. The Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act is a way to ensure that our young athletes obtain the right to capitalize off of their own name, image and likeness. This is an issue of civil rights, and it is only right that these players are compensated.”
“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.”
“As a former student athlete I’ve seen first-hand how college sports is lucrative for everyone but the players themselves,” Rep. Allred said. “Simply put, student-athletes, just like every other individual, should be able to financially benefit from their likeness and image. I am glad to join Congressman Gonzalez and Congressman Cleaver in this bipartisan bill to implement a national standard and ensure our student-athletes are treated fairly and not denied financial opportunities.”
“As a former Clemson football walk-on, I understand first-hand the need to create a fair system for student-athletes while maintaining the integrity and distinctiveness of college sports. I believe this bill does just that, and it does it in a way that is impartial for all athletes across the country, and not just a small group in certain states. I proudly represent both big and small athletic departments in the Third Congressional District, and I know this commonsense framework will move this issue in the right direction at these institutions,” said Congressman Jeff Duncan.
"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 Gottheimer. "Our country loves to support college sports, and the student athletes and players deserve our full support too."
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. For more information, please contact Matt Helfant at 202-590-0175 or Matthew.Helfant@mail.house.gov A high-resolution photo of Congressman Cleaver is available here.