Iowa has become the latest state to ride the wave of athlete compensation.
On Wednesday, state senators from Iowa introduced legislation to govern name, image and likeness, joining dozens of state legislatures scrambling to pass laws on the topic in what is sure to be a politically charged spring and summer in college athletics.
Iowa’s bill, which is bipartisan in nature, comes with a significant effective date. It would kick in on July 1, matching the earliest effective date of any state bill. Florida’s state NIL law, which passed last year, goes into effect the same day.
“Now that we’re seeing multiple states moving ahead, we want to make sure no Iowa athlete is left behind,” says the bill’s author, Sen. Nate Boulton, a Democrat representing Iowa’s 16th District, which includes the capital of Des Moines.
“The climate is becoming favorable to getting these passed in the states. Frankly, the NCAA’s failure to address this has forced states to step up.”
Iowa is only the latest in a sweeping movement across American to grant athletes rights to profit from endorsement and commercial endeavors. In 2019, California started this tidal wave, passing groundbreaking NIL legislation that takes effect in 2023. Five more states have since followed by passing their own legislation, including Florida, Colorado, Nebraska, New Jersey and Michigan. The most notable is Florida, whose effective date of this summer has exacerbated the movement. States are hurriedly rushing to pass legislation as not to have their own universities at a recruiting disadvantage.
In fact, California is exploring a proposal to move up its effective date to this summer, and at least two more states, New Mexico and Maryland, have introduced bills or plan to introduce bills with a July 1 effective date.
“There’s going to be a stampede of NIL laws in many of these state houses so they don’t get left behind,” says Ramogi Huma, the executive director of the National College Players Association. “The next few months will be very telling. The big story is the states. They’re moving. The states are already operating in a way to go against the NCAA.”
Huma, one of the most outspoken NCAA critics, has assisted multiple state governments in creating universal language for their NIL laws, crafting them in a way as to avoid NCAA litigation. At least 35 states have at least introduced, passed or are exploring NIL legislation.
While states are expediting NIL, the NCAA and Congress are falling behind in creating their own legislation. The NCAA was expected to pass groundbreaking NIL legislation in January but has delayed the measure in light of a Supreme Court case (Alston vs. NCAA) that could impact the organization's rules on amateurism and antitrust. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the Alston case on March 31 and deliver a ruling no later than the end of June.
In the meantime, Congress is eyeing a federal solution for NIL but its attention is on more important topics, such as the economy and COVID-19, and there exists a deep divide on the issue between Republican and Democrats.
“We have bigger fish to fry,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told Sports Illustrated earlier this year, “I think it’s aggressive that we’re going to have a bill sitting on the president’s desk this summer.”
The states are taking charge, and their NIL bills are expected to grant more freedoms to athletes than anything proposed by the NCAA. It sets up a potential litigation showdown this summer as the governing body of college sports attempts to block or slow states such as Florida from having its universities adhere to more liberal state laws.
Iowa hopes to join Florida soon in passing a bill that will take effect this summer. This is the second such NIL bill introduced in Iowa. Last year, a similar bill advanced deep into the legislative process before dying in an Iowa House committee, partly because of an expedited deadline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boulton says.
Boulton, a 40-year-old practicing labor attorney who has taught sports law classes, is co-sponsor with Sen. Brad Zaun, a Republican. This year’s version of the bill grants athletes immediate rights to earn compensation from endorsement deals. Athletes at Iowa and Iowa State were integral in crafting the legislation, Boulton says. During the process, he conducted Zoom calls with them.
Boulton is “cautiously optimistic” in the bill’s passage, knowing that there is wide support for athletes rights across the country and in the Iowa legislature.
“The bill puts us in line to what other states are doing,” he says. “We’ve been very careful in monitoring other states. We want to make sure we’re not granting lesser rights to Iowa student athletes.”