California was the first to forward laws that would enable college athletes to a piece of the billion-dollar industry surrounding college athletics. There have been four other states to follow suit, with 20 more have proposed bills. Now New Jersey Senator Cory Booker wrote the College Athletes Bill of Rights, a multipronged federal bill that would give every athlete from a handful of sports a share of the profits.
The proposal also provides scholarships, government oversight over athletes’ health and safety, unrestricted transfers of players, and a public record of college booster donations. To ensure compliance, a commission with subpoena powers would be created. While Booker is a Democrat, there are at least three other federal bills put forth by Republican lawmakers, making this seismic shift in college sport a bipartisan issue.
Social justice for athletes
Paying athletes for their hard work is certainly important, but the bill also challenges a narrative where wealthy institutions exploit young and mostly black athletes using rules that many believe amount to systemic racism. Some are even referring to it as another form of slavery. Moreover, critics point out that these rules regarding income only apply to athletes, leaving musicians, computer programmers and others to pursue any financial opportunity they wish while remaining in school.
The Booker bill also addresses:
- How to address sexual assault claims
- Healthcare for injured athletes long after their college career ends
- Regulating how agents can approach or work with athletes
The bill also states that cost-saving measures, like reducing football coach’s and administrator’s multi-million dollar salaries, should be instituted before discontinuing a sports program because it does not generate a profit.
Still a work in progress
Booker’s bill is scheduled to be a part of the first legislative session of 2021, which could lead to eventual legislation that may include other similar federal bills as well. However, things are relatively fluid on Capitol Hill with the change in presidential administrations and the need to ramp up the fight against the pandemic.