Staff Editorial

Start the conversation on paying Iowa's college athletes

Iowa Hawkeyes guard Jordan Bohannon (3) makes a 3-pointer during the first half of their ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at t
Iowa Hawkeyes guard Jordan Bohannon (3) makes a 3-pointer during the first half of their ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. on Tuesday, Dec 3, 2019. (Stephen Mally/hawkeyesports.com)

Bipartisan efforts are taking shape at the Iowa Statehouse aimed at providing a measure of compensation to college athletes from a multibillion collegiate sports machine that couldn’t run without their talents and effort.

A Senate bill, SF 2058, would prohibit colleges and universities from enforcing any rule that prohibits athletes from receiving compensation “as a result of the use of the athlete’s name, image or likeness rights, or athletic reputation …” The bill also would waive rules preventing athletes from seeking professional or legal representation in relation to contracts and legal matters.

There are limits. For example, the Senate bill prohibits an athlete from entering into contracts involving apparel, equipment or beverages that require the athlete to display those products during official team activities if display violates team rules.

Money paid to athletes, under the Senate bill, would be kept by college or university in a trust until the athlete’s eligibility runs out. A similar House proposal is expected.

This is a modest start to a conversation that’s much needed in Iowa and nationally. Collegiate sports have become immensely lucrative to universities, coaches, athletic apparel companies, sports media outlets, sports betting outfits and countless other businesses. It’s true, athletes often receive valuable scholarships, but they’re largely left out of the billions of dollars swirling around their sports. They take risks on the fields and courts while so many on the sidelines take home a fat check.

Finding a strategy for leveling the playing field to the benefit of athletes will not be easy. We’re glad Iowa lawmakers are taking a stab at the problem. We hope Iowa and other states make athlete compensation a major issue.

We think state actions may be the best way to push the NCAA to address the issue head-on, rather than opting for symbolic gestures and small-bore changes that keep the status quo largely intact. Without a national, NCAA backed solution, a patchwork of state-level laws and regulations could simply add confusion to complications.

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Athletes deserve to be compensated for their labor. Steering the college sports machine down a new path will take time. Iowa lawmakers have an opportunity to point our state in the right direction.

(319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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