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Kentucky lawmakers advance bill allowing student-athletes to brand themselves

Officials from UK's Athletics Department testified in Frankfort in support of a state law allowing college athletes to profit off of their name and likeness.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Top officials from the University of Kentucky's Athletics Department testified before a Kentucky Senate committee in support of a state law allowing college athletes to profit off of their own name, image and likeness. 

Lawmakers supporting the bill say it would level the playing field for student-athletes by allowing them to brand themselves, something many other students already do.

Other lawmakers said they were concerned about whether or not 18-year-old students entering college would be able to make the best financial decisions with the money they might earn, or choose the right brands to attach themselves to. 

This bill requires universities and colleges to train athletes on how to do this responsibly. 

Last summer, Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order to allow student-athletes to profit off of their own brand in Kentucky.

However, UK men's basketball coach John Calipari said he's worried if it's not codified into law, there could be problems for athletes down the road.

"The executive order, some agreed, some didn't," Calipari said. "I thought it was great and I thanked the governor and other states followed suit, I think it's a model bill."

RELATED: Beshear signs executive order allowing Kentucky student-athletes to profit from name, image, likeness

Calipari said he believes other states will create similar legislation based on Kentucky's bill, which includes protections for athletes and their universities and allows for changes later on.

"If there are 50 states that are all different and there's controversy," he said. "The federal government will step in." 

Athletes being paid for their image and likeness is a relatively new concept. Student-athletes have only been allowed to promote themselves or products for a few months.

UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in the past seven months, the department's only had about 800 students report profits. He said this indicates that not every student-athlete has a desire to be in that space.

But, Barnhart said for those that are in that space, it's important there are protections in place for them.

In November of 2021, the entire UK men's basketball team signed a six-figure deal with FTX US.

The company is a US-regulated cryptocurrency exchange, which is a digital payment system that doesn't rely on banks to verify transactions. 

The deal pays each player monthly, in addition, FTX will make a charitable donation on behalf of the players to a charity of their choosing at a later date.


Contact reporter Rachel Droze at rdroze@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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