Kentucky Becomes First State to Sign an Executive Order for NIL Compensation

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Dec 31, 2019; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Kentucky Wildcats helmet during the second quarter against the Virginia Tech Hokies of the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium.

Kentucky governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order Thursday to allow name, image and likeness compensation for college athletes effective July 1.

This is the first state to do so via executive order. Six other states passed their own legislation that was later signed by their respective governors—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas and New Mexico.

“Today’s step was done in cooperation with all of our public universities as well as leadership of both parties,” Beshear said after signing the executive order at the Capitol. “This action ensures we are not at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting, and also that our student-athletes have the same rights and opportunities as those in other states. For any individual athlete, their name, image and likeness are their own and no one else’s.”

The news comes as national uncertainty surrounding NIL continues to mount. The NCAA delayed its NIL vote again Monday, electing to review an alternative model from a group of conference commissioners and to digest the Supreme Court’s Monday decision, sources told Sports Illustrated.

SCOTUS ruled against the NCAA Monday, unanimously voting that the governing body can’t enforce certain rules limiting the education-related benefits, such as computers and graduate scholarships, that colleges offer athletes. Additionally, the NCAA is not immune to antitrust laws. 

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, saying in part: "It is unclear exactly what the NCAA seeks. To the extent it means to propose a sort of judicially ordained immunity from the terms of the Sherman Act for its restraints of trade — that we should overlook its restrictions because they happen to fall at the intersection of higher education, sports, and money — we cannot agree."

The ruling did not specifically address NIL compensation or salaries for athletes. 

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a concurring opinion, saying in part: "Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate. And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law."

The NCAA is expected to adopt a permissive NIL solution as of Wednesday, just more than a week before several states' name, image and likeness laws take effect. SI's Ross Dellenger reported that the model will essentially be used as "a stopgap until Congress can pass a uniform bill to govern the issue. 

"Under the plan, effective July 1, the NCAA would mostly exempt itself from NIL," Dellenger wrote. "Schools in states with an NIL law may follow that law without penalty, and schools located in states without a statute are granted permission to each create and administer their own NIL policy, as long as they use guiding principles such as prohibiting NIL ventures designed as pay-for-play or recruiting inducements."

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