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New Illinois law: NCAA athletes can sign endorsement deals

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Rashawn Slater in shoe commercials, Dee Brown selling his own headbands or Tony Romo starring in a Bob Rohrman commercial. These are just some of the things we might have seen had college athletes been allowed to profit from their names, images and likenesses (NIL) while they were in college. Well, starting on Thursday, those marketing hypotheticals can become marketing realities, because on Tuesday, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law a new bill that will allow student-athletes in Illinois to sign endorsement deals, and take control of their own NIL.

“Let me be clear, Illinois is now at the forefront of this movement,” Pritzker said. “Yet another reason for students to choose Illinois for college… More and more people, including the Supreme Court, are recognizing the hundreds of hours that student-athletes pour into games, to practice, to weight lifting, to nutrition, and they’ve never been properly recognized.

“With this law, Illinois is at the forefront of taking some pressure off of talented kids who are torn between finishing their degree or cashing in on the big leagues. But to be clear, the benefits of this law don’t stop with kids bound for the NFL or NBA. Any student-athlete can partner with businesses in their college towns, as well as brands, big and small, to see a financial benefit from the hours they pour into their craft.”

“This bill is about equity,” said Illinois 26th district representative and former Fighting Illini football player Kam Buckner. “This bill is about parity, it’s about autonomy, it’s about the fair market, it’s about the legal tenet we call ‘the right to publicity.’ But, moreover, this bill is essentially about fairness. Fairness, fairness, fairness.”

 

For years, the NCAA has not allowed athletes to capitalize on their NIL under the broad umbrella of “amateurism.” But the door was opened for change when the Supreme Court voted unanimously last week that the NCAA violates antitrust laws by limiting education-based benefits that schools can provide to student-athletes.

"The NCAA is not above the law," Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in his concurring opinion on the decision. "The NCAA couches its arguments for not paying student athletes in innocuous labels. But the labels cannot disguise the reality: The NCAA's business model would be flatly illegal in almost any other industry in America."

That led the NCAA Division I council to recommend that the NCAA Board of Directors adopt a new NIL policy. The Board of Directors will meet on Wednesday to vote on any changes.

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