Update: State Sen. Derek Slap, who recently proposed that the Connecticut legislature should consider a state law allowing Connecticut college athletes to engage in product endorsement deals, today welcomed a statement by the NCAA’s Board of Governors that it is directing all colleges and universities in America to begin updating their bylaws to allow college athletes “the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”
A few weeks ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom made national news when he signed a new law making California the first state in America allowing college athletes to receive endorsement deals — despite a longstanding NCAA ban on such arrangements. The new California law takes effect in 2023.
The law had passed the California state legislature on a unanimous and bipartisan basis, with both Democrats and Republicans agreeing that college athletes attending USC or UCLA or Stanford or Fresno State (among others) should be able to get an agent and secure an endorsement contract with a local car dealership, or a restaurant, or a sporting goods store, or maybe even a national shoe company.
So that got me thinking: if it’s good enough for California, why not Connecticut? We’ve got some very good collegiate basketball and hockey and soccer teams. Why not extend the same opportunity to them? And, like Gov. Newsom, I believe that that there are racial, gender and economic injustices ingrained in college athletics.
So I’ve begun discussions with some of my fellow legislators at the State Capitol to see how they feel about passing a similar law here in Connecticut next session, which begins in February 2020.
I believe that with California moving ahead on this issue, other states are sure to follow — and Connecticut should also consider such a measure if we want to remain competitive in the highly competitive word of recruiting high school athletes to play in college. If you were a coveted high school track star, and could either attend a college where you could make some endorsement money on the side, or attend college in a state with no such option, where might you choose to attend? You get my point.
But, more importantly, such a bill would help ensure more gender equality in Connecticut. Thanks to the stellar role models of the UConn women’s basketball team, Connecticut is a state where women stand as good a chance as men to earn endorsement money and receive financial compensation for a commercial endorsement. It’s just one more way that way we as a state can help promote pay equity between men and women.
It’s important to note that no one is suggesting that colleges or universities put athletes on a payroll: there is no tuition hike involved, no private-sector fundraising. The point is simply to allow an athlete to hire an agent and try to secure some local or national endorsement deal — if their talent and promise commands such a price.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy has already come out in favor of such an option: he has publicly chided college sports for getting rich off the backs of its players, going so far as to characterize it as a “civil rights issue.”
I believe the time has come to consider such a law in Connecticut, and I hope to update you early next year on my progress on this matter.