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State Senator

Derek Slap

Representing West Hartford, Farmington, Burlington and Bloomfield

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Sen. Slap Reacts to NCAA Bylaw Change Regarding College Athletes and Their Right to Engage in Endorsement Deals

State Senator Derek Slap (D-West Hartford), who three weeks proposed that the Connecticut legislature should consider a state law allowing Connecticut college athletes to engage in product endorsement deals, today welcomed a statement by the NCAA’s Board of Governors that it is directing all colleges and universities in America to begin updating their bylaws to allow college athletes “the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”

But Sen. Slap also said that “the devil is in the details” of the NCAA directive and that he will follow the matter closely.

“It’s encouraging that because of the pressure applied by elected legislators in California and other states, including Connecticut and elsewhere, that the NCAA is now reversing course on a policy that just a few shorts weeks ago it was vehemently opposed to. So it seems like the NCAA is moving in the right direction. I just want to hear more specifics and reaction about how their policies will actually play out for college athletes across America,” Sen. Slap said. “There’s no denying that, historically, there have been some racial and gender economic injustices when it comes to college athletes in America. I’ve always believed that female athletes in Connecticut may be especially likely to take advantage of any product endorsement deals, so I’m happy to see the NCAA Board of Governors notes in its own statement that allowing college athletes to engage in product endorsement deals would enhance the principles of diversity, inclusion and gender equity in college sports. But, again, this is a move that bears close attention as it develops over the next year.”

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” Michael V. Drake, chair of NCAA Board of Governors and president of The Ohio State University, said in the NCAA statement issued early this afternoon. “Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.”

According to the statement, the NCAA’s Board of Governors’ action directs each of the NCAA’s three divisions to immediately consider updates to relevant bylaws and policies for the 21st century.

Specifically, the Board said modernization should occur within the following principles and guidelines:

  • Assure student-athletes are treated similarly to non-athlete students unless a compelling reason exists to differentiate.
  • Maintain the priorities of education and the collegiate experience to provide opportunities for student-athlete success.
  • Ensure rules are transparent, focused and enforceable and facilitate fair and balanced competition.
  • Make clear the distinction between collegiate and professional opportunities.
  • Make clear that compensation for athletics performance or participation is impermissible.
  • Reaffirm that student-athletes are students first and not employees of the university.
  • Enhance principles of diversity, inclusion and gender equity.
  • Protect the recruiting environment and prohibit inducements to select, remain at, or transfer to a specific institution.

The Board’s action was based on comprehensive recommendations from the NCAA Board of Governors Federal and State Legislation Working Group, which includes presidents, commissioners, athletics directors, administrators and student-athletes. The group gathered input over the past several months from numerous stakeholders, including current and former student-athletes, coaches, presidents, faculty and commissioners across all three divisions. The Board also directed continued and productive engagement with legislators.

The NCAA said the working group will continue to gather feedback through April on how best to respond to the state and federal legislative environment and to refine its recommendations on the principles and regulatory framework. The Board asked each division to create any new rules beginning immediately, but no later than January 2021.

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