WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled “NCAA Athlete NIL Rights” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The hearing will address federal legislative proposals to enable athletes participating in collegiate sports to monetize their name, image, and likeness (“NIL”); improve athlete health care; and enhance scholarship protections and academic outcomes, among others. The hearing will also review recent changes in state laws around NIL.
- Mr. Mark Few, Head Coach, Men’s Basketball, Gonzaga University
- Dr. Mark Emmert, President, NCAA
- Mr. Rod Gilmore, College Football Analyst, ESPN
- Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, President, Howard University, and Chair, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s Presidents and Chancellors
- Mr. Michael McCann, Professor of Law and Sports and Entertainment Law Institute Director, UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law
- Mr. Matthew J. Mitten, Professor of Law and Executive Director, Marquette University Law School
*Witness list subject to change
Wednesday, June 9, 2021
10:00 a.m. EDT
Full Committee (Hybrid)
This hearing will take place in the Russell Senate Office Building 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
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Chair Maria Cantwell
Cantwell: I want to thank all our colleagues for working so diligently on the Endless Frontier Act and point out that the committee will be very busy in the next few weeks working on our part of the Surface Transportation Act, and hopefully the broadband legislation that we also think should be part of infrastructure. So I just appreciate committee member diligence, and what has been a very, very busy work period, but I appreciate everybody's input into those important issues. And this morning we have an also very important issue in front of us, which is the issue of name, image, and likeness that my colleagues have been working on for a long time. Senators Wicker and Booker, Senators Blumenthal and Moran, have been doing a lot of work on this issue for really, literally the last several years.
So it is our hope today that this hearing will bring focus and attention to how to resolve the issues that would allow us to grant these important rights to students, and also make sure that we are taking care of our students on important issues like scholarship, health care, transferability, obviously making sure that women are treated equally within the sports arena, and making sure that we continue to have the standards that should be set to make sure that they are all protected. So today we're going to hear from a distinguished panel, so appreciative that all of them are here. We're first going to hear from our colleague Senator Booker, but I do want to say a special thanks to, we have two wonderful institutions who are going to be testifying today, Gonzaga University and Coach Mark Few, and the President of Howard University, Dr. Wayne Frederick. These are two great institutions, I have to say congratulations on a great season to Gonzaga and a great program. And certainly, you've produced a great colleague of ours, a law student, Senator Cortez Masto, so we're very proud of the Spokane Institution and the whole state of Washington. And I want to say to Dr. Frederick, it must be a special delight and moment of the 2020 year that a former graduate of Howard University raised her right hand and took the oath as the Vice President of the United States. So, we see the Vice President every day taking out the "truth and service" motto of Howard in how she does her job, so you must be very proud of her.
We're also going to hear from Mr. Rod Gilmore, who is a very articulate advocate for NIL rights and a student in his football history, I'm sure he'll elaborate a little bit on that. The NCAA President Mark Emmert, who hopefully will illuminate some of the issues of health care, and why we should be covering more athletes' health care costs, and Mr. Michael McCann, and Matthew Mitten, who will discuss some of the more thorny legal issues related to name, image, and likeness, and how we can move forward. As I said, I really believe that this is the time to make progress on this issue. Mr. Mitten brought up in his testimony I think a very interesting point, not to steal this thunder, but his reports says, "Prior to the 23 adoption of WADC which provides the basis for International Convention Against Doping in the sport, and that was later ratified, that a serious balkanization happened with various states doing different things, and thereby leaving an unfair and unjustified hometown favoritism." We can't afford that now, what we can afford is to take care of our students and student athletes.
It's so important for us to listen to the voices that have made so many of these points clear. Dallas Hobbs, a football player at Washington State University, called attention to inadequate COVID protections and formed a group of unity with Pac-12 players. We also have heard from Sedona Prince, a college basketball player from the University of Oregon, who shined a spotlight on a persistent gender divide in college sports when she posted a video that literally compared her workout room to the workout room of male athletes during the Final Four tournament, so we can do better. I believe that Title IX should be part of this conversation and applied to the NCAA, so we will have many chances today to get clarity on these issues. But I welcome everybody in the hopes that this discussion today will move us forward on legislation.
Ranking Member Roger Wicker
Thank you Madam Chair for holding today’s hearing, I appreciate your comments and subscribe to the tone and adjective that you outlined. It’s a very important day to discuss the issue of college athletes’ name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights.
Last year, the Commerce Committee held multiple hearings on this subject. We heard from stakeholders with a wide variety of perspectives, representing large and small colleges and universities, conferences, student athlete groups, and academia.
As a result of that process, and because of the insights gained from responses to letters I sent on behalf of the committee to dozens of institutions, the proper role of what Congress needs to do on NIL has become clearer.
There is broad consensus that Congress should pass a law that guarantees college athletes the right to enter into NIL agreements with third parties – the same right that all of their fellow non-athlete students have. Such a law should have guardrails in place to prevent pay-for-play schemes and to safeguard student athletes from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous actors.
A federal NIL law also needs to ensure that institutions, conferences, and athletic associations are not held liable for past rules governing NIL compensation during the transition to a new system. And it should be preemptive of state law, creating a single national standard providing the same rights and protections to all student athletes across the country.
For my part, I sought to take the first steps toward such a law when I introduced the Collegiate Athlete Compensation Rights Act late last year.
This Congress, I credit Senator Cantwell for moving quickly to start negotiations on a bipartisan path toward NIL legislation. And time is of the essence, because the Senate Commerce Committee has certainly not been the only body taking up the NIL issue.
In recent years,  states have signed NIL bills into law, the first of them set to go into effect on July 1 of this year. That is less than one month away. After that date, some college athletes will be able to avail themselves of opportunities related to their name, image, and likeness – and some will not. Schools and programs in some states will be able to gain a recruiting advantage under these new laws – and some will not.
One of those state NIL laws will be going into effect in my state of Mississippi, and I am glad to know that student athletes at Ole Miss, Jackson State University, MSU, Southern Miss. and other institutions will not be completely disadvantaged.
However, inconsistencies between state laws are already emerging. The only way to ensure that all student athletes across the country have the same NIL rights and protections is for Congress to act.
I understand that NIL is not the only issue of importance in the world of college athletics. In our bipartisan talks, we have spent a significant amount of time on issues such as providing better health care and support for educational outcomes among our college athletes. These issues deserve deep and thoughtful consideration, especially as they overlap with the jurisdiction and expertise of other committees.
But unlike NIL, these issues are not subject to a July 1 deadline. Based on our discussions, I believe we can reach consensus on a focused bill addressing NIL on a much faster timetable.
To that end, I expect the testimony of today’s witnesses will be extremely helpful. I look forward to discussing with each of you the latest developments on the NIL issue and the need for federal legislation. Thank you Madam Chair.
Mr. Matthew MittenProfessor of Law and Executive DirectorMarquette University Law School
Mr. Rod GilmoreCollege Football AnalystESPN
Dr. Wayne A.I. FrederickPresidentHoward University
Dr. Mark EmmertPresidentNCAA
Mr. Mark FewHead Coach, Men’s BasketballGonzaga University
Mr. Michael McCannProfessor of Law and Sports and Entertainment Law Institute DirectorUNH Franklin Pierce School of Law