Sen. Cruz Releases Discussion Draft of Bill to Codify NIL Rights For Athletes, Provide Legal Certainty for College Athletics
Draft legislation draws support from key stakeholders at the NCAA, conferences, and universities
WASHINGTON, D.C. – After significant engagement and conversations with major universities, conferences, and other key stakeholders, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today unveiled a discussion draft of legislation aimed at addressing major issues in college athletics that have wrought a patchwork of pending litigation, inconsistent state laws, and labor complaints. Cruz’s committee has jurisdiction over athletics.
As it stands, Sen. Cruz’s discussion draft would codify name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights for student-athletes, provide legal certainty for the roles of universities, conferences, and athletic associations, and ensure nationwide legal uniformity. Sen. Cruz continues to seek public feedback from athletes, universities, and all other interested parties so that when introduced, his legislation would provide the best possible path forward for addressing today’s uncertain college sports landscape.
Upon introducing this discussion draft, Sen. Cruz said:
“For millions of fans who love and want to preserve college athletics, this is a critical moment. Name, image, and likeness deals present new opportunities for athletes, but they’ve also spurred a jumble of new state laws that tug at college sports’ history and competitive balance.
“This legislative draft is the product of diligent conversations with the NCAA, conferences, and universities across the country about how to best protect athlete NIL agreements, grant the legal certainty necessary for all parties, and give school and sport administrators the authority needed to govern for the benefit of the student body.
“I'm confident that this legislative draft represents the best path forward to codifying NIL rights for student-athletes, providing national uniformity for college sports with as little government interference as possible, and preserving college sports as we know it. I welcome constructive feedback on this legislation and hope Congress will soon move forward on legislation that protects student athletes’ rights and preserves the college experience so that fans can continue to root for their favorite schools for generations to come.”
Sen. Cruz’s discussion draft has resulted in a groundswell of support from key stakeholders in college athletics. Below are some statements of support:
“The NCAA is excited to see this legislation move forward. It would empower the Association to continue the work it’s already begun to modernize college sports to best serve student-athletes. With the provisions contained in this bill, the Association will be well positioned to go further in our efforts to protect student athletes from exploitive behavior and provide consistent, national rules at a time when states are engaging in a race to the bottom to gain a competitive edge. I look forward to working with all parties to reach consensus on these important issues for a bipartisan solution to college sports’ challenges.” – NCAA President Charlie Baker
“We appreciate Senator Cruz’s leadership in drafting legislation that thoughtfully and comprehensively addresses the key principles we believe are important to better support, protect and benefit college athletes. As the landscape of college athletics continues to evolve, now is the time for Congress to pass legislation that will provide uniform standards for name, image and likeness (NIL) and establish needed protections for student-athletes who choose to explore use of their NIL for economic benefit, while also helping all colleges and universities maintain broad-based athletics opportunities. The Southeastern Conference is encouraged by the strong momentum building in Washington and we look forward to continuing to work with Senator Cruz and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to address the future of college athletics.” – Southeastern Conference
“The Big 12 Conference commends Senator Ted Cruz for his efforts in drafting legislation that establishes a national standard to govern student-athletes’ use of their name, image and likeness and other important issues. His understanding of the challenges facing intercollegiate athletics provides an essential framework to preserve the integrity of fair competition. We remain committed to working with lawmakers in the House and Senate to arrive at a legislative solution that preserves college athletics and provides a uniform NIL standard.” – Big 12 Conference
“The Texas Longhorns thank Senator Cruz for his leadership and welcome his efforts to bring clarity, transparency and uniformity to the Name, Image, Likeness landscape for collegiate student athletes. This legislation is an important step in a growing bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill to provide student athletes a path toward benefitting from NIL, while protecting against abuse, and ensuring that universities can continue to offer student athletes the opportunity to compete across a broad spectrum of sports.” – University of Texas at Austin
“We applaud Senator Cruz for his efforts and leadership on introducing NIL legislation. He has taken initiative to engage with universities by hearing specific elements that have been expressed on behalf of student athletes, their families, as well as higher education institutions. A national standard for governing collegiate-level athletics is very much needed. It is critical that the Congress address this important issue now. Texas A&M looks forward to continue working with Senator Cruz, as the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, on this legislation that would ensure appropriate NIL opportunities moving forward.” – Texas A&M University Interim President, Gen. (Ret.) Mark A. Welsh, III & Director of Athletics, Ross Bjork
“We appreciate the engagement and work of Senator Cruz and the Senate Commerce Committee to address some of the significant issues facing college athletics. We are encouraged that Congress is coming to the table with ideas and potential solutions to develop a framework that would enhance student-athlete protections and address many of the questions around NIL activity.” – Baylor University President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.
“We appreciate Senator Cruz’s approach to addressing name image and likeness for student athletes. He and his staff have both engaged in a collaborative effort with many stakeholders to preserve college athletics while also creating a federal framework to modernize it. We look forward to continuing to working with he and his staff as Congress discusses a national standard for NIL.” –University of Houston Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Chris Pezman
“College athletics needs a federal legislative solution that would allow a single set of rules to protect student athletes and promote robust and fair competition. TCU is thankful for the leadership of Senator Cruz and other Senators and Members of Congress who are working towards that solution” – Texas Christian University Director of Athletics Jeremiah Donati
“We appreciate the work being done by our elected officials, including Senator Cruz, to make progress on this important issue for our student athletes.” – Texas Tech University President Lawrence Schovanec
“We are thankful for Senator Cruz and his staff listening to the voices of student athletes and college administrators from large and small institutions, public and private institutions, and the wide variety of stakeholders in college athletics. This bill provides a thoughtful framework within which student athletes have the ability to earn income based on their name, image, and likeness. It also provides a structure under which athletic associations and institutions can govern consistently across a national landscape that will help ensure competitive equity and fair play in the NIL arena. More than 500,000 college student athletes, and millions of college sports fans, are asking Congress to come together and finalize federal legislation that governs NIL. We’re grateful for Senator Cruz and his leadership on this important issue and look forward to Congress working together for the good of college athletics.” – West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler and Director of Athletics Michael McBroom
“We are thankful to Senator Ted Cruz for his thoughtful approach during the drafting of this NIL legislation. Now, more than ever before in the history of the NCAA, it is imperative that we find the balance between maintaining the competitive playing field across the nation and creating an environment where student-athletes can take advantage of their NIL opportunities. We look forward to continuing to work with Senator Cruz in this effort to refine the future of NIL in college athletics.” – Tarleton State University President Dr. James Hurley
“College athletics is in crisis. I am pleased to see bipartisan momentum continue to grow in the Senate to meaningfully support our nation’s student-athletes. The development of national NIL guardrails, and ensuring student-athletes are students first, are essential for preserving college sports.” – University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
“If there’s one thing I have taken away from my time at Notre Dame it’s that there is so much more to life than the sport I play. My experience as a student-athlete afforded me the opportunity to develop relationships in the classroom, in my dorm, and on campus while receiving an education from one of the greatest institutions in the world. Future student athletes deserve to be challenged by the demands of balancing life as both a student and an athlete. A change in the current landscape of college athletics would strip the next generation of the opportunity to take advantage of everything that a college campus has to offer. We must protect the amateur status of student-athletes in order to protect their futures and this bill does that. There truly is more to life than the sport we play.” – Notre Dame Student-Athlete (Hockey) and Graduate Student in the University's Mendoza College of Business Ryan Bischel
Sen. Cruz’s discussion draft provides a unique approach to addressing the many challenges in today’s unprecedented college sports landscape, one that empowers athletics associations and their members to tackle these issues head-on, without introducing burdensome requirements or making the federal government the primary regulator and adjudicator of college sports.
The Cruz proposal borrows from and builds on a Texas law allowing for NIL. In 2021, State Senator Brandon Creighton (SD-4) shepherded legislation into law allowing college athletes to hire agents and sign NIL deals.
Students, universities, conferences, and athletic associations all agree that legal clarity is needed so that student-athletes can take advantage of NIL agreements and administrators and institutions can fulfill their specific roles in a more certain legal environment that won’t harm college sports as we know them.
Student-athletes seek their right to profit from their name, image, and likeness through marketing opportunities that allow them to flex their entrepreneurial spirit regardless of their state, their right to representation, and not be considered employees of a university which could jeopardize their scholarships and increase their tax liability.
Athletic associations and conferences have sought clarity so they can properly enforce recruitment and transfer rules and govern college athletics properly.
Third parties, including sports agents, seek clarity on the rules to better benefit student-athletes in name, image, and likeness agreements.
In attempts to address these concerns, Sen. Cruz’s discussion draft:
- Prohibits Universities, Conferences, and Athletic Associations from restricting the NIL rights (or right to representation) of student-athletes, unless a student-athlete’s NIL agreement conflicts or violates a university student code of conduct.
- Creates a standard form contract for NIL agreements that requires an NIL agreement to be in writing and contain key contract terms and the signature of all parties in order for the NIL agreement to be valid.
- Modifies the Sports Agent Responsibility Act to require third parties (like sports agents) to protect student athletes by requiring any third party (I.e., sports agents) seeking to represent a student-athlete to:
- Disclose if they are registered with an athletic association, and
- If not registered with an athletic association, to obtain the written consent from the student-athlete (or parent of a student-athlete) that acknowledges the third party is not registered with an athletic association.
- Allows athletic associations or conferences to enforce recruiting, transfer, and eligibility rules.
- Allows athletic associations to create a public database used to help student athletes and third parties determine the fair market value of NIL services based on anonymized NIL data from institutions.
- Provides a safe harbor from legal liability for institutions, conferences, and athletic associations that fully comply with this Act.
- Preempts state and local laws that conflict with this Act or that governs or regulates the compensation, employment status, eligibility of student-athletes, including any provision that governs commercial use of NIL for student-athletes.
- Clarifies that student-athletes shall not be considered an employee of an Institution, Conference, or Association.
Read the full text of Sen. Cruz’s discussion draft HERE.