Should college athletes profit from playing?

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Some in Congress are pushing for a federal law to regulate name, image and likeness for college athletes.

The Supreme Court’s 2021 ruling letting student athletes make money off their NIL has prompted a patchwork of state laws and calls on Congress to pass uniform regulations.

Former Alabama football coach Nick Saban was in Washington Tuesday to try to protect college athletics.

“You have a pay-for-play system and free agency system that has no guidelines,” Saban said.

Saban told lawmakers the impact of unregulated name, image, likeness payments for college athletes is creating unfair competition.

“We have collectives that in some places are raising huge amounts of money and going to compete against people who do not have the same resources,” Saban said.

Lawmakers invited Saban and others to Washington to talk about how Congress might step in to level the playing field.

It’s unclear what exactly a federal law would look like. But some at the meeting insisted that classifying athletes as employees is not the answer.

They warned that could mean “game over” for college sports that typically don’t drive revenue.

“It’s the Olympic sports that would be in jeopardy,” University of Alabama Athletics Director Greg Byrne said in an exchange with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas.).

“So swimming, tennis, track, golf, soccer, wrestling,” Cruz said. 

“All those things,” Byrne said.

University of Miami basketball players Hanna and Haley Cavinder told lawmakers women’s sports need equal treatment.

“If you are in women’s basketball you don’t have as many opportunities to go pro. You’ll have to go overseas and learn that. I think within NIL, it’s paved the way by female athletes,” Hanna Cavinder said.

The lawmakers said they are working to pass federal legislation soon. Republican Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran says he thinks that’s possible.

“In four years of trying to figure out the legislative effort, we are this close,” Moran said.

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