Name, image and likeness legislation has taken the NCAA by storm at the state level, but Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said Wednesday that national legislation is also on its way. Romney reassured student-athletes that Congress was going to act to help them despite resistance to state legislation from the NCAA.
Current NCAA rules forbid student-athletes from profiting off of their name, image or likeness in order to maintain eligibility as an amateur.
"You know something is seriously awry," Romney said, per The News & Observer. "The reality is Congress is going to act. We're coming for you. We're coming to help these athletes."
Romney's comments came at a roundtable with former Duke standout and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas and Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) who introduced a federal statute that would apply across every state, among others. Walkers' Student Equity Act would bring above-board payments for name, image and likeness to college athletes at the national level.
"All we're saying is allow these student-athletes to have access to the free market like every other citizen does," Walker said, adding that the NCAA has "refused" to come to the table with lawmakers.
Walkers' bill, introduced last spring, would amend the definition of a qualified amateur sports organization in the tax code to remove the restriction on student-athletes using or being compensated for use of their name, image and likeness.
The subject of NIL legislation recently resurfaced when Senate Bill 206 was passed in California by Governor Gavin Newsom on Sept. 30. Newsom's SB206 will allow California-based college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness beginning in 2023. The bill will not allow schools to start directly paying players, but, rather, will allow student-athletes to pick up endorsements, sponsorships or employment based on competing for the school.
Dozens of other states are considering similar legislation and coaches like have added their names to a growing list of supporters for NIL bills for student-athletes.
The NCAA has a working group that is currently examining the NIL topic and exploring ways to allow athletes to use their NIL while avoiding a "pay-for-play" situation. The group is expected to put its formal recommendations for any NIL legislation up for consideration at the end of the month when the Board of Governors convenes in Atlanta.