NCAA Bill of Rights

Lawmakers Lay Out Bill of Rights for NCAA Student-Athletes

CFBTop Headlines

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has reportedly set the framework for an NCAA Bill of Rights, designed to protect the interests of student-athletes. A job the NCAA says it does.

Booker was a TE at Stanford, so he knows what it’s like to play college sports. NCAA reform has been a topic for him in the past. And he’s not the only politician to get behind the idea. Kamala Harris and other lawmakers also support his bill.

The bill would protect the student-athlete in a number of ways:

  • Continued comprehensive healthcare
  • Easier transfers, with no penalties.
  • Larger ability to be able to profit from their likeness than what has already been established.

Booker had this to say:

“This issue is personal to me. The NCAA has failed generations of young men and women even when it comes to their most basic responsibility — keeping the athletes under their charge healthy and safe. The time has come for change. We have an opportunity to do now what should have been done decades ago — to step in and provide true justice and opportunity for college athletes across the country. Our college athletes bill of rights establishes a new framework for fairness, equity, and safety in college athletics, and holds colleges accountable to these standards.”

We’ve seen in recent past how the NCAA has actually treated its production staff. That might sound harsh, but this is exactly how these people are viewed. In 2018 an incoming freshman at Clemson was not eligible to play because he built a deck for his neighbor over the summer. And got paid for it.

But as we know, no one else under scholarship in a university risks losing that free education over making money. An art student who sells a piece of work won’t face consequences. Why should the student-athletes?

This year, players who decided to return to campus for training for fall sports, had to sign a waiver for the virus. At least 2 schools have reported inconsistencies and outright collusion over COVID-19. It has taken a while for the 2A to decide whether to uphold scholarships in the event that a player opted out.

We’ve been big on this. It’s a contract. Play your sport, or no free ride. Even high-risk underclass student-athletes had to apply for a redshirt if they wanted to opt-out and not lose a year of eligibility. This bill would protect the health of the student, and their scholarships. And supersede the NCAA’s rules.

But that’s not all that Booker is considering. This plan also offers a profit-sharing aspect to give the players a piece of the pie. The proposal states:

“College athletes should retain authority to determine and establish fair NIL agreements and have a clear voice in crafting rules at their college, instead of facing undue control and micromanagement primarily motivated by profit.”

The NCAA has had a long history of mismanagement. No one can deny that. This year they’ve basically put a wall up between them and any culpability over the health of these kids by leaving all decisions on how to handle COVID-19 up to the conferences.

We’ve also been behind the idea that the students need to have a voice. Its been a wide-spread “shut up and play” mentality in college sports. Outside of interviews about the game they play, we really don’t get to hear about these people’s lives, and where they stand on issues. But in every other aspect of the college experience, activism is big.

This year though, that began to change. When FSU’s head football coach Mike Norvell sent out a message saying he had spoken to “everyone” about how the school and football program would approach the social unrest and injustice in this country, DT Marvin Wilson held him accountable for those false statements. Wilson had not been contacted.

When Mississippi State RB Kylin Hill chose to sit out until the state removed the confederate flag from its state flag, we heard about it, and change happened. It moved the NCAA to enforce a rule they created in 2001, which said that any state that represents the flag on its state banner would be ineligible for national championships to be held within that state. This only applied to Mississippi.

We saw what happened at Oklahoma State when RB Chuba Hubbard called his coach out for supporting a media group who had been open in their opposition of the Black Lives Matter movement.

We’ve seen a shift this season. More power and a bigger voice have been given to the players. The Pac-12 united in their resolve to have a better and more conscientious conference. The BigTen followed suit. Now both leagues have decided to postpone their seasons, because their players were not comfortable with the way the virus was being managed.

This bill would increase that voice, and add protections. Nine other Democratic Senators including Bernie Sanders support it.

And while I support the student-athletes, I’m not sure this is the best way to go about it. The NCAA does need to be held accountable for the way they’ve treated their athletes. They should be able to work while in school, and not risk losing their education. The 97% of student-athletes who won’t go pro in their sport need that. But many come from low socioeconomic status. Education is their way out of that.

And if they can make a buck or two while they do it, that’s great. But continued comprehensive healthcare is an important aspect of all of this. Because those who do come to school from low-income communities already lack that access. If we can break that cycle, we might stand a chance of real change.