New bill backs compensation for Ohio college athletes


By Andrew Welsh-Huggins - Associated Press



COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — College athletes in Ohio could earn money through endorsements and sponsorship deals based on their names, images and likenesses, under legislation introduced Monday that mirrors similar efforts in other states and on the federal level as athletes fight for rights to compensation.

The bill sponsored by state Sen. Niraj Antani, a suburban Dayton Republican, prevents universities or college athletic conferences from punishing athletes if they are compensated based on their sports performance.

Such compensation could involve anything from a book-signing at a bookstore to a deal with a local restaurant. Exceptions include sponsorships for marijuana, alcohol, tobacco and casinos, which are not permitted under the bill, Antani said.

Athletes would have to notify universities 15 days ahead of signing endorsement contracts.

“Today is a big step forward for the rights of student athletes in Ohio,” Antani said. He said the goal is to enact legislation by July 1, which would be speedy by Ohio Statehouse standards.

Even though the compensation system needs federal legislation to govern the whole country, that is still up in the air and so state legislation is needed, said Gene Smith, Ohio State’s longtime athletic director.

He doesn’t believe Ohio is behind and in fact may benefit from seeing what others have done, said Smith, who in 2019 co-chaired the NCAA Board of Governors Federal and State Legislation Working Group.

Smith said he still hopes the NCAA will pass its own rules in June.

Since 2019, 16 states — including Arizona, Nebraska, and Michigan — have approved legislation allowing college athletes to make money through advertisements, sponsorship deals and other types of promotions based on their athletic success.

Five of those bills — approved by Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico — become law July 1.

The U.S. Supreme Court in March heard arguments brought by athletes who say the NCAA’s current rules are unfair and violate federal antitrust law designed to promote competition. Both liberal and conservative justices seemed sympathetic to the athletes’ position during oral arguments.

The NCAA is in the process of trying to amend its rules to allow athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses. That would allow athletes to earn money for things like sponsorship deals, online endorsement and personal appearances. For some athletes, those amounts could dwarf any education-related benefits.

Last month, Ohio GOP U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a former Ohio State football player, reintroduced a bipartisan bill that would give college athletes the right to earn money through endorsements and sponsorship deals.

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Associated Press writer Steve Megargee in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press