Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is joining the “Fair Pay to Play” effort and is planning to introduce legislation to help college athletes.
Quoted as if he were speaking to the NCAA, Romney said, “We’re coming for you. We’re coming to help these young athletes in the future, and the athletes of today, make sure that they don’t have to sacrifice their time and sacrifice, in many cases, their bodies without being fairly compensated.”
Such rewards would not come from colleges and universities themselves, but from agencies that would pay them for autographs and endorsements, for example.
Romney was the only senator who attended a roundtable discussion this week about the subject on Capitol Hill, The News & Observer reported. The Raleigh, N.C., newspaper is tracking the issue after Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., introduced a bill in March designed to allow athletes to profit from the use of their names, images and likenesses.
California has recently passed a similar law, called the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” that takes effect in 2023. About a dozen other states are proposing similar legislation. The NCAA, overseeing collegiate athletics, has responded that it has created a working group to study the issue, acknowledging the need for “adjustments … that are both realistic in modern society and tied to higher education.”
The NCAA doesn’t allow college athletes to accept money outside of their scholarships and part-time jobs. The organization contends if athletes were allowed to accept outside money, it would blur the line between amateur and professional sports.
Utah State athletic director John Hartwell recently told The Salt Lake Tribune that he’s concerned about potential changes that would make it even more difficult for mid-major schools to compete against high-level programs. Those schools, he said, “will have greater opportunities to generate revenue and would create a further divide between the haves and have-nots in college athletics.”
Romney said Walker's bill has “a great deal of merit” and he intends to meet with supporters and opponents of the issue to decide what kind of legislation to pursue.
“I do believe we have to take action,” Romney said, according to the The News & Observer. “I believe we can adjust and we can address the extraordinary unfairness without in any way sacrificing the amateur nature of college sports or its attractiveness and impact on the American public.”
Walker said the passing of the California law has “lit a fire” around his bill.