Five U.S. senators joined in reintroducing legislation Thursday that would dramatically alter the compensation and treatment of athletes in major-college sports programs. It also would place new annual reporting requirements on schools regarding their compliance with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs.
The bill, again being named the “College Athletes Bill of Rights,” is similar to a measure that Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced in late December 2020. At that time, a Congressional session was coming to a close amid the need to pass year-end spending bills and COVID-19 relief measures, so it was understood the measure would need to be brought up again.
This time, Booker and Blumenthal are being joined by three other Democrats: Brian Schatz, Hawaii; Ron Wyden, Ore., and Alex Padilla, Calif.
However, throughout Congressional conversations about college sports that have occurred since states began passing laws that allow athletes to make money from the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL), Republicans have been interested in legislation that is limited almost exclusively to standardizing issues connected to NIL.
On Wednesday, Sens. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., and Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., announced that they were soliciting input from college-sports stakeholders on legislation related to NIL. They made no mention of the broader changes that have been pursued by Democrats, several of whom introduced a bill in May 2021 that would make college athletes at public schools employees of the schools and give them the right to collectively bargain.
The new iteration of the Senate bill drops the most controversial concept from the December 2020 version, a provision that required a form of revenue sharing between schools and athletes. However, Thursday’s 69-page measure keeps nearly all of the other original concepts, all of which would be backed up by an oversight commission appointed by the President and the right of any athlete to bring a federal civil lawsuit if they believe provisions are being violated.
This version also includes a new section, titled “Right to Title IX Equity” that would establish a series of annual requirements for schools, including that they evaluate their compliance with the gender-equity law in athletics, “using all relevant measures,” and publish this evaluation on the school’s website.
The NCAA would be required to “permanently ban” from college sports anyone who “knowingly provides misleading information or causes omissions for the purpose of affecting” the required Title IX evaluation.
Despite tremendous gains during the past five decades, many colleges and universities fall short of complying with Title IX, leaving women struggling for equity, an ongoing series by USA TODAY has found.
FALLING SHORT AT 50: Colleges still don't live up to landmark Title IX law
The new bill maintains a provision from the original version that would prevent a school from dropping a team “unless all other options for reducing the expenses of the athletic program, including reducing coach salaries and administrative and facility expenses, are not feasible."
Among the provisions also originally covered in the December 2020 version, the bill introduced Thursday would include:
►Federal codification of athletes’ rights to make money from the NIL through endorsements and other activities, including group licensing. Schools also could not “prohibit or discourage” an athlete from wearing the shoes of their choice in mandatory team activities “unless the footwear has lights, reflective fabric, or poses a health risk.” This would allow athletes to have endorsement deals with shoe and apparel companies that conflict with schools’ contracts.
►The establishment of a medical trust fund that would help athletes with health-care costs related to injuries suffered during their college careers, including head injuries.
In this version of the bill, while schools also would be responsible for helping their athletes in the years after their careers, the broader trust fund money would come from annual payments that would be required of any athletic association, including the NCAA, or conference that has more than $200 million in annual athletics revenue. The trust fund would receive a total of up to $50 million each year.
►A set of educational protections for athletes, including a requirement that anyone who receives an athletic scholarship for an academic year generally be provided with a scholarship at that school until they receive an undergraduate degree from the school.
There also are provisions that say a school “may not attempt to discourage” an athlete “from selecting a course or an academic major of their choice”; or retaliate against an athlete based on selection of any course or major.
In addition, the bill also says schools cannot impose restrictions on athletes’ speech that are more stringent than those imposed on students who are not athletes.
Follow colleges reporter Steve Berkowitz on Twitter @ByBerkowitz
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College athletes 'Bill of Rights' legislation backed by five senators