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College Athletes Bill of Rights proposed by Democratic senators

Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-California) as well as fellow senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) are leading a group of democratic lawmakers in laying the framework for college sports legislation intended to protect student athletes’ rights and create opportunities for players to profit.

The proposed College Athletes Bill of Rights was revealed Thursday following the Pac-12 and Big Ten’s decisions to postpone their fall sports seasons, including football, until springtime due to coronavirus. The senators’ proposal would provide students with a larger voice in such decisions while improving health and safety protocols, as well as access to educational opportunities.

The proposal includes a revenue-sharing system, similar to professional sports, and offers players the chance to earn money off their name, image, and likeness (NIL) — something the NCAA intends to allow beginning in 2021.

‘It is long past time that the NCAA should have acted on these issues,’ Booker told ESPN. ‘I’m looking for legislation to obligate the universities to have rules that protect athletes.’

Senator Cory Booker thinks the NCAA has failed to protect student athletes' health and rights

Senator Cory Booker thinks the NCAA has failed to protect student athletes’ health and rights

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut): 'My hope is that it will be embraced by the schools and the NCAA and others in power, and that they will be proactive and take voluntary action. But if not, Congress may need to act. And even if they do, Congress probably needs to act, because it will be the type of very fractionated decisions we're seeing with playing football'

Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign event. She was among the 10 senators to sign the College Athletes Bill of Rights

Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris (right) and senator Richard Blumenthal (left) are leading a group of democratic lawmakers in laying the framework for college sports legislation

Although the NCAA has traditionally resisted any effort to put money in the hands of student athletes, the governing body previously announced its intention to allow players to profit off NIL rights, and organization president Mark Emmert has pushed Congress to create a nationwide law that could standardize the practice. 

Several states have already approved NIL bills, but Emmert fears that different laws could create an unequal playing field along the college sports landscape.

In order to avoid that discrepancy, Congress will need to approve a bill standardizing the protocol before July of 2021, when a Florida law allowing college athletes to profit off their NIL rights goes into effect.

Neither the senators nor the NCAA has proposed allowing schools to pay players directly.

Before becoming a senator and mayor of Newark, Cory Booker was a tight end at Stanford in the late 1980s and early 1990s

Before becoming a senator and mayor of Newark, Cory Booker was a tight end at Stanford in the late 1980s and early 1990s

‘The present state of college athletics is undeniably exploitive,’ Blumenthal wrote on Twitter. ‘We want to give college athletes the tools to protect their economic rights, pursue their education, prioritize their health/safety, & most critically, hold their schools & organizations like the NCAA accountable.’

‘As a former college athlete, this issue is personal to me,’ said Booker, who played football at Stanford and was also named to the 1986 USA Today All-USA high school football team. ‘The NCAA has failed generations of young men and women even when it comes to their most basic responsibility – keeping the athletes under their charge healthy and safe. The time has come for change.’  

The senators’ proposal aims to:

  • Allow athletes to profit off NIL rights
  • Create a revenue-sharing program that provides ‘fair and equitable compensation.’
  • Install ‘evidence-based health, safety and wellness standards’ and punish teams that fail to comply
  • Provide comprehensive health care coverage for injuries suffered while playing or practicing NCAA sports
  • Ban any restrictions on athletes transferring from one school to another
  • Establish a commission of current and former NCAA athletes to serve as players’ voice with college sports decision makers.

If approved, the College Athletes Bill of Rights could help student athletes earn a profit through a revenue-sharing plan that is similar to those used by professional athletes

If approved, the College Athletes Bill of Rights could help student athletes earn a profit through a revenue-sharing plan that is similar to those used by professional athletes 

The proposal has been signed by nine democratic lawmakers, including Booker, Harris, Blumenthal, Chris Murphy (Connecticut), Kirstin Gillibrand (New York), Ron Wyden (Oregon), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii), as well as one independent senator, Bernie Sanders (Vermont).

‘These are athletes that help to generate incredible amounts of money,’ Booker told ESPN. ‘And personnel – coaches and beyond – are reaping significant salaries from their labors. 

Cory Booker isn't the only former college football player weighing in on the debate from the US Congress. Anthony Gonzalez was a star receiver at Ohio State before playing in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts

Cory Booker isn’t the only former college football player weighing in on the debate from the US Congress. Anthony Gonzalez was a star receiver at Ohio State before playing in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts

‘It is, to me, exploitative to have people creating wealth but they see no revenue from that whatsoever. And you have a disproportionate number of workers who are Black and brown people.’ 

The bill, which does not have any republican signatures, should be finalized over the next few months, according to the Washington Post.

‘This isn’t radical thinking,’ Murphy said in a statement. ‘It’s just the right thing to do.’

Booker told ESPN that the proposal is a ‘clear message’ to the NCAA, indicating that any federal NIL law passed over the next 12 months will require provisions ensuring the rights of student athletes.

However, congressman Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), himself a former Ohio State football player who went on to a brief NFL career, believes that lawmakers should refrain from making rules for the NCAA to follow.

‘I think Congress can handle the NIL issue, [but] if we open it up to every issue that exists in college sports, I don’t think we’ll make it better,’ he said. ‘I think we’d probably make it worse.’

Republican senator Marco Rubio (Florida) introduced a bill last month that would shield the NCAA from potential lawsuits arising from any NIL rules.  

Congressman Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), himself a former Ohio State wide receiver, believes that lawmakers should refrain from making rules for the NCAA to follow

Congressman Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), himself a former Ohio State wide receiver, believes that lawmakers should refrain from making rules for the NCAA to follow

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