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Cory Booker: NCAA rule change a good start, but more should be done

Student-athletes should be able to benefit from the use of their names and images, presidential hopeful says

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks Feb. 8, 2019, at the African American Museum of Iowa, 55 12th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids. The stop was part of the Democratic presidential hopeful’s Iowa Rise Tour. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks Feb. 8, 2019, at the African American Museum of Iowa, 55 12th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids. The stop was part of the Democratic presidential hopeful’s Iowa Rise Tour. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

By Erin Murphy, Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES — It was a moment that warranted a spike of the football and an end zone dance.

The governing body of major college athletics voted Tuesday to allow athletes to “benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness,” the Associated Press reported.

It’s something U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a Democratic presidential candidate and former Stanford football player, has been calling for.

Booker has introduced a batch of policy proposals regarding college athletes, and among them was a pledge that he would support legislation that would allow athletes to be compensated for the rights to their name, image and likeness. Booker said the policy would be similar to a bill recently passed in California.

Booker said college athletes help generate millions of dollars in revenue for colleges, so he feels it only fair that an athlete should receive some of the financial benefit when, for example, the school sells a jersey with the athlete’s name on it.

“The reality is, if you’re generating tremendous amounts of wealth (for colleges), you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your name and image and likeness,” Booker said in a recent phone interview. “You should be able to see value (in that).”

Tuesday’s vote by the NCAA is a first step; the body must now determine how to allow athletes to receive compensation while maintaining amateur status, according to the AP. For example, college athletes under the NCAA’s governance cannot hire an agent.

Booker said the move is a good first step but not enough to fully address the issues facing college athletes.

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“We need sweeping action to bring justice for college athletes, by making sure that access to a quality education, health care, and economic security are central to college sports — not big profits,” Booker said in a statement. “That’s exactly what I’ll do as president.”

Booker’s other proposals for college athletics:

• Require all colleges and universities to cover athletes’ medical expenses for the treatment of injuries suffered or exacerbated during college competition for at least 10 years after eligibility.

• Eliminate penalties for athletes who decide to attend a different school from the one they’ve committed to, and by making it easier for athletes to transfer schools.

• Require colleges and universities to comply with aggressive, evidence-based and enforceable standards governing the health, safety and wellness of NCAA athletes.

• Require colleges to boost funding for women’s athletics to equal spending on men’s athletics.

“I look at it more as not having athletes being exploited,” Booker said during the interview. “You see students (finishing their athletic career) without a college degree, but they have damage to their bodies and they have little to show for it.

“The bargain we all think is that these kids are going to get a wonderful opportunity and an education and an enriching life experience. But for many kids, it becomes a business proposition where the university makes tremendous amounts of money and (the student) leaves without.”

Booker said he remains supportive of college athletics, calling his time at Stanford “an incredible experience.” But he said that experience also gives him a perspective on what he feels should be changed in college athletics.

“Being a college football player exposed me to the incredible aspects of college athletics,” Booker said, “but also the darker side that we don’t talk about enough and should address in policy.”

Comments: (563) 383-2492; erin.murphy@lee.net

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