A North Carolina congressman will introduce a bill next week to that would allow NCAA student athletes to profit from the use of their name, likeness and image, according to The News & Observer.
Rep. Mark Walker plans to propose the Student-Athlete Equity Act that would change the definition of a qualified amateur sports organization in the tax code. The bill does not intend to ask universities to pay student athletes but to allow amateur athletes the ability to be paid by third parties. It would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
"Signing on with a university, if you’re a student-athlete, should not be [a] moratorium on your rights as an individual. This is the time and the moment to be able to push back and defend the rights of these young adults," Walker told the newspaper.
Walker has met with NCAA representatives and said he is "open to considering possible NCAA restrictions or guidelines" on the proposed legistlation.
Under current NCAA rules, student athletes can receive scholarships for playing sports at an university but are not paid by the institution, which can use their name and image to make money. Athletes cannot be paid by third parties or sign endorsement deals, and doing so threatens their NCAA eligibility. Many critics have called on the NCAA to change its rules and have universities pay players, or at least allow them to be paid by others.
Walker points out that allowing students to make money during their college careers could bring financial opportunities to those who will never play sports professionally.
"It’s just odd that in our free market system that this is the one area where we say, 'No. We'll let you make money for the university, but you can’t have any access to your name or likeness,'" he said. "This is an earning opportunity for 99% of these student athletes who will never have another access to do something like this. It's in that moment that your earning opportunity is prime."
Walker will introduce the bill just days before March Madness begins on Tuesday, March 19.