A state senator wants to let student athletes make money, but some warn of unintended consequences | Michigan Radio
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A state senator wants to let student athletes make money, but some warn of unintended consequences

Oct 17, 2019

California made sports history last month when Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that would let college athletes cash in on the $14 billion college sports industry.

The landmark "Fair Pay to Play Act" opens the door for athletes to be paid for their likeness, name, image, and lets them sign endorsement deals.

Democratic State Senator Adam Hollier is preparing a bill that would open the same door to college and high school athletes in Michigan. College athletes, Hollier told Stateside, have been held to an “amateur standard” that “only benefits other people.”

Under current NCAA rules, Hollier said, athletes are very restricted in what jobs they can take and how they make money. Hollier said his bill would give those students the opportunity to have a “work life” in addition to being an athlete.

“What I'm doing is creating kind of a right to privacy. So saying that you have this right — for lack of a better term — for your economic freedom,” Hollier explained. “So you have the ability and a right to earn what you can earn, and it can't be abridged by someone just because you want to play a sport.”

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon agreed that the NCAA’s regulations “cannot be explained or defined.” He gave the example of former Indiana Hoosiers point guard Steve Alford, who was suspended from several games after posing for a sorority charity calendar, despite not receiving any compensation.

“If there’s a logic there, I’m not seeing it,” Bacon said.

The NCAA’s rules, Bacon argued, are primarily meant to regulate football and men’s basketball, the organization’s two major “cash cows.” But because those rules apply to all sports — including less lucrative ones — all college athletes have to follow strict rules when it comes to earning money. 

“Why? Because [the NCAA is] afraid of basketball coaches getting boosters to pay their players which, by the way, they’re already doing at many schools,” Bacon said. “So the whole thing is one-size-fits-all, and right now, it fits nobody.”

Hollier said he hopes to introduce his bill by early November.

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