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Lawmakers vow bill for college athletes to earn off likeness

The lawmakers praised the Democratic governor’s executive action and vowed to help lead the push to put those compensation protections into Kentucky law.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Two lawmakers pledged Monday to push for legislation guaranteeing Kentucky college athletes can be compensated for their name, image and likeness in a follow up to the governor’s executive action.

State Sens. Max Wise and Morgan McGarvey offered the bipartisan commitment just days after Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order enabling the state’s college athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness.

The lawmakers praised the Democratic governor’s executive action and vowed to help lead the push to put those compensation protections into Kentucky law.

“Next session, we will have a bill that protects Kentucky student-athletes and ... lets the athletes of Kentucky know that they will have an advantage that benefits them when they attend a university in Kentucky,” McGarvey said at a statehouse news conference.

Kentucky lawmakers will reconvene in early January for their next regular session.

Wise, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, predicted the eventual legislation will win strong support from his fellow Senate Republicans. McGarvey is the top-ranking Democrat in the GOP-led Kentucky Senate.

Beshear’s executive order takes effect July 1, when similar measures passed in several other states will become law. Those laws make it impermissible for the NCAA and members schools to prevent athletes from being paid by third parties for things like sponsorship deals, online endorsements and personal appearances. Beshear’s office said he was the first governor to make the change by executive order. Existing state law gave him the authority to take the action, the governor said.

“This is going to last until either the NCAA fully and finally acts, or the legislature is back in session, at which time we all agree we would need legislation,” Beshear said after signing the order.

Beshear won widespread praise from college coaches and administrators in Kentucky for his action.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican, said last week he supported the governor’s “narrow and temporary action,” which he said provided “the tools needed to ensure that Kentucky’s student-athletes are given ample opportunity.” Stivers said the commitment to “permanent protections” for the students will be addressed early in the next legislative session.

In the meantime, Kentucky lawmakers can monitor actions by the NCAA and other states before offering the legislation, McGarvey and Wise said.

“That gives us some time to have some really good communication with a lot of the different shareholders that are out there,” Wise said at the news conference.

The NCAA had hoped for a national law from Congress that has not come, and its own rule-making has been bogged down for months.

Meanwhile, ripple effects from allowing college athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness will reach far beyond football and men’s basketball, McGarvey and Wise said.

It could have a big effect in women’s college athletics as well, they said. The University of Kentucky won a national championship in women’s volleyball this past spring, and the University of Louisville women’s basketball team has become a perennial powerhouse. But compensation opportunities also could reach women competing in such sports as swimming and gymnastics.

“These athletes really are doing incredible work,” McGarvey said. “They’re putting in incredible hours. And they might be able to get a little bit of recognition from their name, their image and their likeness.”

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