Governor JB Pritzker is urging Illinois lawmakers this week to pass a bill that would allow college athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image or resemblance.
The bill, filed with bipartisan support, comes after California passed a similar law last month. At least five other states have filed similar legislation, including Minnesota, New York and Florida.
Flanked by state lawmakers, some of whom played college sports themselves, Pritzker said at a press conference Monday morning that students should have ownership over the use of their image.
“The names and likenesses of student athletes are being used by others to create massive profits and yet the students themselves see none of those profits,” Pritzker said. “That’s simply not fair. Any other student who has a job on weekends to make money while they’re in school gets to keep what they earn. So why shouldn’t student athletes be afforded the same right?”
The bill would not allow schools to revoke a scholarship if students are paid for the use of their likeness, nor would a scholarship count as compensation. They would also be allowed to hire agents to represent them.
If passed, it would not go into effect until January 2023. Pritzker said he hopes that gives the NCAA, which oversees college athletics, enough time to develop a national solution to this issue. Either the NCAA or the federal government could establish a national policy.
Lawmakers also say this bill would allow Illinois to remain competitive with states like California. They see this law as a recruitment tactic.
“We need to retain and attract students to our colleges and universities in Illinois,” said State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Westchester, who introduced the bill. Welch says he plans to call for the higher education appropriations committee to take a vote on the bill Tuesday morning.
Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Dolton, who played football for Northwestern University for four years, said this is an issue about rights. He remembers his mother struggling financially when he was a player for the team.
“On campus, you see coaches making millions of dollars and presidents making millions of dollars and stadiums being filled,” Harris said. “I remember seeing a lot of jerseys with my likeness and number in the stands and I was not allowed to receive any compensation for that.”
Northwestern University and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the bill.