Republicans unveil legislation protecting NCAA, conferences from legal challenges

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A pair of GOP lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation to protect the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), college conferences and member schools amid ongoing legal challenges and allow them to continue regulating student-athletes’ compensation and other matters.

Republican Reps. Russell Fry (S.C.) and Barry Moore (Ala.) unveiled The Protect the Ball Act on Wednesday, which would “provide new benefits for student-athletes, establish and enforce rules, and comply with the law without the constant risk of costly litigation.”

The NCAA and Power Four conferences are currently considering the settlement of an antitrust lawsuit that could cost billions in damages for college athletes who were unable to profit from sponsorship and endorsement deals dating back to 2016, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

In 2021, the NCAA lifted their previous ban to allow student-athletes to make money off of their name, image and likeness (NIL). It came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that restrictions on student-athlete compensation are a violation of the Sherman Act, an antitrust law.

The NCAA is also facing multiple lawsuits from states over some of the association’s rules, including recruiting incentives and multi-time transfers, the AP reported.

Fry’s and Moore’s proposal seeks to protect the NCAA from litigation and establish federal guardrails around athletes’ compensation for their NIL, recruitment and eligibility standards.

“NIL rules are ever-changing, heavily litigated and essentially unenforceable — causing confusion and chaos for everyone involved,” Fry said in a statement. “We must establish a liability shield on the national level to protect schools, student-athletes, and conferences as they navigate this new set of circumstances.”

Fry and Moore are both members of the House Judiciary Committee.

“The Protect the BALL Act preserves the opportunity for more than 500,000 NCAA student-athletes to compete and protects [universities] from constant litigation in the NIL era,” Moore said.

A series of leaders from NCAA schools applauded the proposal and emphasized the importance of protecting student-athletes amid the controversy surrounding NIL practices.

“We are extremely grateful to Congressman Fry and his willingness to introduce legislation that provides institutions with the legal protections we need in the ever-changing name, image, and likeness landscape,” Graham Neff, director of athletics at Clemson University, said in a release.

At least seven bills regarding a standard of rules for compensation have been introduced in the House or Senate since 2020, though none have been successful, the AP noted.

The Protect the Ball Act is intended to be paired with broader legislation that will create a national framework for NIL compensation in college sports, Fry’s office stated.

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