Illinois representative proposes bill to allow student athlete compensation

By Rana Schenke, Managing Editor

Illinois State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside) introduced a bill on Monday that would enable student athletes to receive compensation for usage of their name, image and likeness. 

A similar bill, the Fair Pay to Play Act, was signed into law in California on Monday as well. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina, Colorado and Florida, among others, are working on or have proposed similar bills.

Chloe Schobert
Map of states’ progress regarding student athlete compensation bills.

Welch’s bill, like the California bill, would prohibit state and private universities in Illinois from upholding any regulation preventing student athletes from receiving compensation for the use of their name, image or likeness, according to the full text of the bill.

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“This measure is about equity and fairness to our college athletes, who have essentially been used to generate massive profits for their schools, without receiving a dollar in return,” Welch said in a press release. “My bill ends that discriminatory practice and allows these students to share in the profits they are creating.”

The bill also prevents conferences or athletic associations with authority over intercollegiate athletics, such as the NCAA, from disallowing institutions to participate in athletic competitions based on student athletes’ compensation. 

The NCAA released a statement regarding the California bill, which said the NCAA agrees changes need to be made to continue to support student athletes, but improvement needs to happen through the NCAA’s rule-making process.

“As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field,” the NCAA said. 

The NCAA also sent a letter on Sept. 11 to California Gov. Gavin Newsom urging the state to reconsider the “harmful and […] unconstitutional bill.”

The letter said if the bill were to become law, it would erase the distinction between college and professional athletics by allowing student athletes to be paid.

“Because [the bill] gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage, [it] would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions,” the letter said. 

An unfair recruiting advantage would breach the NCAA membership requirements, meaning the NCAA could prevent California schools from participating in competitions with other schools, according to Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann.

“The rules that athletic associations like the NCAA are arbitrary and should not be the governing principles of college sports that both restricts athletes from just compensation but threatens universities from participating in sports,” Welch said. 

Both the Illinois and California bills prohibit educational institutions from compensating the student athletes for use of their likeness. Compensation would come from outside sources, such as payment received from endorsements. 

Under the proposed Illinois bill, student athletes would be allowed to seek professional representation from athletic agents or attorneys. 

Both the Illinois bill and California law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Managing Editor Rana Schenke can be reached at [email protected]

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