In October 2019, just as the issue of laws allowing college athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images, and likenesses, Congressman (and former Colts receiver) Anthony Gonzales (R-Ohio) said that he plans to introduce a federal bill covering the issue on a national level.
“I actually think that we need to do something quickly, within the next year,” Gonzalez said at the time. “I don’t think you have three years to figure this out. I think decisions will start happening immediately.”
Eighteen months later, Gonzales is ready to introduce possible legislation. He spoke about the issue recently with Peter King of Football Morning in America.
‘It’s an incredible life-changing experience to play college sports,” Gonzalez told King. “I wouldn’t be sitting in this seat if I didn’t play at Ohio State. There are so many great, positive things about college athletics, not just football, but all the sports. Having said that, there’s an obvious inequity in my view between what the college athlete is allowed to do with their own name, image and likeness, and what everybody else in society is able to do. . . . I think the legislation that myself and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who’s my partner on the Democratic side, are going to introduce, likely next week, will expand the name, image and likeness right to all college athletes and have one universal standard across the country and then build some guard rails, because there are some things you want to make sure don’t happen. Like, people buying recruits for example.”
The devil, as always, will be in the details, with fine print and potentially convoluted language that helps one constituency at the expense of another.
“There are a lot of people who are trying to get a piece of the athlete who do not have their best interest in mind and are out for nefarious means,” Gonzalez said in 2019. “You can imagine a world where, if there were no guard rails in place, that it could get out of hand pretty quickly. That’s the lane you’re trying to carve. How do you do this to provide necessary and deserved benefits while not inviting a bigger problem alongside it?”
The use of “necessary” suggests that there could be limits, for example, on what a player can earn. There shouldn’t be.
To his credit, Gonzalez has no concern regarding the potential problems that NIL revenue imbalance could have in a college football locker room.
“I’ve been talking to coaches throughout this process, as well as players and administrators and conferences — and the NCAA,” Gonzalez told King. “Initially, the coaches were pretty skeptical. . . . There was a lot of concern about, ‘Well, how am I going to deal with this if my quarterback is making this much money but my right guard isn’t? How do we manage that?’ I think they’ve come around to it for a whole host of reasons. My response to that is always, ‘Well, that’s kind of how it works in the NFL and the locker rooms are actually very good.’ You just figure it out.”
He’s right. Besides, it’s a horrible look for coaches who make a lot of money being concerned about one of their players making more than another. Ultimately, the coach will have to just deal with it.
Before anyone mistakes the “R” after Gonzalez’s name for a “D,” it’s clear that he thinks that allowing players to earn money for their names, images, and likenesses makes the process of players receiving money far closer to the end than the beginning. Gonzalez is opposed to college athletes being paid by the schools.
“I think it would destroy college sports,” Gonzalez said.
Depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court resolves the antitrust action currently pending before it, Gonzalez and the rest of us could eventually find out whether college sports would be destroyed by the people who generate the revenue finally getting a fair share of it.
Spoiler alert: College sports will be fine either way. As Gonzalez said regarding the issues that NIL payments could create, “You just figure it out.”