Sens. Manchin, Tuberville introduce NIL bill with transfer restrictions, registry of deals

U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) introduced on Tuesday a long-awaited bipartisan bill regarding name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights and other college sports issues. Called the “Protecting Athletes, Schools and Sports Act,” the legislation includes the creation of a national public registry to record and track NIL deals, enhanced healthcare coverage for both current and former college athletes and strict rules regarding athletes’ usage of the transfer portal. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The bill would preempt state NIL laws and require a uniform NIL contract for all parties entering into a contract. It would also allow the NCAA to prohibit certain types of deals, such as those with gambling companies or alcohol brands.
  • The NCAA would be in charge of enforcing and investigating such rules, but it would have the support of the Federal Trade Commission, which would handle the registration of agents and collectives as well as the national public NIL deal registry. Collectives and boosters would be required to be formally affiliated with specific schools.
  • The act would guarantee health insurance for sports-related injuries for uninsured student athletes for eight years following graduation from a four-year institution. That responsibility would either fall upon the school at which the athlete played and/or a newly formed trust fund taken from one percent of annual proceeds from revenue-generating collegiate tournaments, including the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the College Football Playoff.
  • Athletes would only be able to transfer and play right away after completing their first three years of academic eligibility. Exceptions to this would include a death in the player’s family or a head coach or position coach leaving the school.

The implications (and criticisms) of a public NIL registry

The act would establish “a publicly accessible internet website on which the Federal Trade Commission shall publish and frequently update anonymized and aggregated name, image or likeness data.” While a great many college administrators have called for transparency around NIL deals themselves, not every proposed bill has included a public registry. This information would be useful in determining what is or isn’t true market value. Critics have argued that it is not necessary because such a database doesn’t exist in other industries, nor does it exist for professional athletes who sign endorsement deals.

The other new bipartisan bill coming from the Senate

Last week, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) circulated a discussion draft of their bipartisan bill, which proposes the formation of the College Athletics Corporation (CAC), a central oversight entity that would set, administer, and enforce rules and standards to protect athletes who enter into endorsement contracts. It would require that athletes disclose deals to a designated athletic department official at their school but not publicly.

The bill also included healthcare provisions for current and former players, paid for by a medical trust fund, and the ability for an athlete to transfer one time and play immediately as long as the transfer occurred out of season and not within 60 days of the start of the sport’s season. The bill would also allow athletes who go undrafted in a professional sports draft the ability to return to school.

How they compare

Neither bill explicitly states that athletes are categorically not employees. But other than that, these bills both provide the NCAA with a lot of what it’s been asking for: the preemption of state NIL laws, requiring that NIL deals be disclosed and tracked and assistance with enforcement. The biggest differences are in how each treats athletes’ ability to transfer and ease in which they can do so. The Manchin-Tuberville bill severely restricts athlete mobility, presumably to avoid recruiting inducements in the form of NIL deals.

But it’s an odd inclusion during an era that has seen a significant loosening of athlete restrictions in this area, among others. The bills also differ in disclosure — the Manchin-Tuberville bill proposes a national public registry with athletes granted anonymity, while the Booker-Moran-Blumenthal bill would keep contract information private and protected from Freedom of Information Act requests. The bills also differ slightly in the breadth of medical coverage provided and some of the particulars surrounding how it would be funded. It’s not clear exactly how the FTC or the newly formed CAC would actually work with or in lieu of the NCAA in terms of regulation and punishment for violations.

(Photo: Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

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