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NCAA votes to allow student-athletes to benefit from name and likeness

The NCAA’s Board of Governors voted unanimously Tuesday to allow student-athletes the ability to benefit from their name, image and likeness.

The board’s vote directs each NCAA division (Division I, Division II and Division III) to immediately consider “modernization of bylaws and policies” in a manner “consistent with the collegiate level.”

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” NCAA Chair of the Board Michael V. Drake said in a release. “Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education.”

The “modernization” is to occur with several guidelines in mind, including ensuring student-athletes are treated similarly to non-athlete students; making sure the distinction is clear between “collegiate and professional opportunities”; making sure the compensation for athletic performance or participation is impermissible; and reaffirming that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university, according to the NCAA’s release.

Each division has been instructed to create new rules beginning immediately, but no later than January 2021.

The NCAA’s decision comes after a bill was signed into law last month by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) that would allow California collegiate athletes to profit from their likeness. At the time, Drake told ESPN that the bill has the potential to blur the line between professional and collegiate sports.

The California bill is not set to take effect until Jan. 1, 2023.

Other states, including Florida, have had similar bills proposed. Florida House Bill 251, which would go into effect next July, calls for “students participating in intercollegiate athletics to receive specified compensation” and creates a “Florida College System Athlete Name, Image, & Likeness Task Force.”

Introduced by Rep. Kionne McGhee (D-FL) the same day Newsom signed the California bill, the bill received extra attention last week when Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsed it.

“We’re sick and tired of the hypocrisy within a classroom setting where young athletes are taught about capitalism and taught about the free market but are being told, on the other hand, they cannot participate because they have a gift,” DeSantis said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The NCAA Board of Governors Federal and State Legislation Working Group, which recommended Tuesday’s decision, is continuing to gather feedback on how to respond to “the state and federal legislative environment,” according to the NCAA release.