Illinois House allows college athletes to sign endorsements

Chicago News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation to allow college athletes to make money on product endorsements.

The House on Saturday voted 95-18 to give student athletes the right to hire agents and market their names and images, for decades the singular domain of the NCAA and universities with big-time sports programs.

If approved, the proposal, sponsored by Rep. Kambium Buckner, a Chicago Democrat and former University of Illinois football player, would take effect July 1, the same day a similar plan already approved in California becomes effective.

With about 10 states having adopted similar laws that become active in coming years and 13 more considering them, a race to approve legislation could ensue among others as so-called name, image and likeness laws give schools in those states a recruiting advantage, experts say.

The House also approved a measure Saturday to tighten up the process for obtaining the identification card gun owners are required to have, but took no action on a state budget with two more days left before the spring session is scheduled to adjourn. Republican lawmakers staged a rally outside Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office calling on him to live up to a campaign pledge to veto new legislative district maps drawn by politicians after Democrat-drawn lines for the next decade were approved Friday night.

Pritzker has not appeared at any scheduled public events since May 19.

For more than a century, college athletes have been mythologized as amateurs while laboring for colleges and universities that make hundreds of millions of dollars marketing them to sell tickets and merchandise.

Buckner’s measure spotlights elite athletes who are already national names during their college careers. They’ll be able to sign deals to model and promote brand-name sportswear or other products aside from tobacco, marijuana, alcohol or sports gambling. But Buckner said the real beneficiaries would be those who don’t have a chance to play professionally, such as a star softball player.

“She’s a bit of a fan favorite and a big deal to her college town and the local car dealer wants to put her on posters,” Buckner said. “This may be her one shot to make money off of the fact that she’s a great softball player and a great personality.”

Proponents of name, image and likeness laws bemoan the lack of a national standard, although the NCAA has indicated it is considering one. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, whose members are mostly smaller schools, adopted a policy last year.

Buckner, listed as a 6-foot-2, 265-lb. (188-centimer, 120-kilogram) defensive lineman for the Fighting Illini from 2003 to 2006, said the measure now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Napolean Harris III, a Democrat from Harvey, is sponsor. A Northwestern University graduate, Harris had a seven-year NFL career as a linebacker.

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