Beshear signs bill regulating payments for college athletes
Coaches and administrators filled a small cheering section Wednesday as Gov. Andy Beshear signed a bill regulating name, image and likeness compensation for Kentucky varsity athletes.
The new law establishes a framework for athletes to benefit from their notoriety, while university boards can adopt NIL-related policies for their school’s athletes.
It recognizes that athletes are the “main attraction” in college sports and deserve to be fairly compensated for the use of their name, image and likeness, Beshear said. Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman, a former college basketball player, called it “a step toward fairness for the athletes we are cheering on.”
Rhyne Howard, a star of the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team, thanked lawmakers for passing the measure to benefit athletes.
“We are very grateful to be able to be compensated for all the work that we do,” she said.
The high-profile issue has united Republican and Democratic lawmakers as well as rival schools in a state with nationally renowned college sports programs with legions of fans.
The bill signing ceremony at the Kentucky Capitol was attended by a cross section of college coaches and administrators, including University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari and coach of University of Louisville women’s basketball, Jeff Walz.
Calipari said Kentucky’s measure both protects athletes and their schools while providing needed flexibility, saying NIL issues are “moving rapidly.”
“I believe this is model legislation that will be looked at now to say ‘Well, we can do it,'” he said.
Statehouse lawmakers across the country are grappling with the high-stakes issue, as millions of dollars pour into endorsements for college athletes.
In Kentucky, college athletes have been able to make money from their name, image and likeness since last summer when Beshear signed an executive order. His action was seen as a short-term response, resulting in the bill that passed through the legislature with bipartisan support.
The result will be that college athletes in Kentucky will be “equitably compensated for the use of their name, image and likeness,” the Democratic governor said during the signing of the bill on Wednesday.
“For decades, student-athletes — unlike their peers — have not been allowed to seek compensation associated with skills and talents,” Beshear said. “And unlike most of their non-athlete peers, student-athletes are the main attraction in what is a multi-billion dollar industry in this country.
Walz emphasized that student-athletes will not only benefit from NIL opportunities, but can use their notoriety to help others in their communities.
“It’s a great opportunity for our student-athletes to finally be able to make some money with their name, their image,” he said. But it’s also an opportunity for them to give back.
Morehead State University President Jay Morgan said the bill provides opportunities for student-athletes on campuses across the state. For college administrators, the bill establishes “safeguards that we can all use” to deal with the ever-changing world of college athletics, he said.
Under this measure, athletes will not be allowed to promote illegal products and will not be able to promote anything related to sports betting. University boards may adopt policies governing NIL agreements of their school’s athletes. But these regulations should be reasonable and could not place an undue burden on student-athletes’ ability to earn NIL money.
The main sponsors of the bill were Republican Senator Max Wise and Democratic Senator Morgan McGarvey. Wise predicted that the NIL problem could resurface as early as next year and could lead to “some adjustments” to the new law in response to the changing landscape nationwide.
The legislation signed on Wednesday is Senate Bill 6.