The Student-Athlete Equity Act was introduced by U.S. Representative Marker Walker (R-NC) and co-sponsored by U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond (D-La). The bill is designed to prevent qualified amateur sports organizations from restricting student-athletes from using or being compensated for use of their name, image, and likeness. The bill’s sponsors purport to give equitable free-market opportunities to collegiate student-athletes.
Specifically, the bill looks to add to the language of Section 501(j)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. This section provides the definition for an amateur sports organization that qualifies for tax exemptions. The bill would amend the end of the definition as follows – ‘‘Such term does not include an organization that substantially restricts a student athlete from using, or being reasonably compensated for the third party use of, the name, image, or likeness of such student athlete.’’
The bill is directed towards current NCAA rules, under which student athletes cannot sign endorsement deals or be paid by third parties, and doing so threatens their NCAA eligibility. Universities, meanwhile, are able to profit from use of student-athletes’ names and likenesses. Walker had previously called on the NCAA to change its rules regarding student-athlete compensation for likeness.
Andrew Distell is a Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2021).