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Bills would allow student-athletes compensation for likeness

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MONTGOMERY — Bills in the Alabama Legislature would allow student athletes at Alabama institutions of higher education to be compensated whenever their name, image or likeness is used in promotional material.

House Bill 404 is sponsored by Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette, who said he wanted to make sure Alabama has procedures in place when the National Collegiate Athletic Association gives a final vote on their own compensation rules.

“We just want to be prepared at the state level so that our laws don’t contradict what they’re trying to do at a national level,” South told ADN.

Separately, House Bill 150 from Rep. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, gives students the choice at the beginning of an academic year to “opt-in” and seek compensation in the marketplace or “opt-out” in favor of a school-funded annuity.

“This bill is the first step to closing the gap,” Hatcher said in a press release. “It may not solve every problem but it will shine a light on the clear need to support all student-athletes during their time in school. After all, we know many student-athletes, frankly, help generate millions of dollars for athletic programs across the country. This legislation will ensure all student-athletes will get a financial reward for playing college sports.”

Hatcher’s legislation would also create a working group to make recommendations and policies for Alabama’s historically black colleges and universities who traditionally don’t receive national television contracts.

Hatcher’s bill has been assigned to the House education budget committee; South’s is assigned to the State Government Committee.

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to give their ruling on the current case concerning compensating student-athletes, NCAA v. Alston, before the end of June, the Associated Press reported.

A vote was supposed to take place in January for NCAA regulations on athletes benefiting from their name, image and likeness but was delayed due to “correspondence with the U.S. Department of Justice,” the NCAA said in a statement. It is unclear when they would be voting on the measure next.

South’s bill says higher education institutions are not allowed to unduly restrict students from taking compensation and that students cannot enter into endorsements with brands or companies that sell nicotine products, alcohol, marijuana, adult entertainment or casino/ gambling.

The legislation also requires schools to conduct financial literacy and life skills workshops for the student athletes.

“Schools just want some responsibility and accountability from the student athlete to make sure that they are advised on making wise decisions when it comes to finances,” South said.

South said he worked with the University of Alabama in crafting the legislation and reached out to other higher education institutions to hear their concerns.

The University of Alabama told ADN they do not comment on pending legislation.

South said if legislation like his doesn’t pass, it could make it difficult for Alabama universities to recruit student athletes.

“We don’t want to be at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to recruiting,” South said.

Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn, Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark and Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, are listed as co-sponsors on South’s bill. Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, is sponsoring the Senate version.

Hatcher’s bill also requires schools to conduct financial literacy and life skills workshops for student-athletes.

“It’s time to have honest dialogue in our sports championship state to shape the conversation and bring all stakeholders to the table to equitably support all athletes playing college sports, ” Hatcher said.

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