Schakowsky Announces Framework for College Athlete’s Bill of Rights

September 23, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, today announced her support for the College Athlete’s Bill of Rights. This legislative framework will advance justice and opportunity for college athletes, creating a baseline of rights and protections for them, while guaranteeing they have a voice. It would additionally ensure individual states have flexibility to provide greater protections and opportunities for college athletes.

College sports have the unique ability to transcend partisan division and cultural differences to unite millions of Americans as fans. Yet, college sports have also come to reflect many of the inequalities  that permeate everyday life in America—where systems fail to protect those under their charge, where hard-working Americans are blocked from sharing in the profits they help create, and where systemic and structural racism disadvantage and exploit people of color.

“I am proud to fight for justice today with Senators Blumenthal and Booker in announcing my support for the College Athletes Bill of Rights.  Just as I did when I stood with the Northwestern football players during their union drive in 2015, today I carry forward in the House of Representatives a just vision for these college athletes. This framework will ensure that college athletes can receive equitable compensation, are protected by stronger health and safety standards, and can hold the NCAA to account when they fail them in any of these ways,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “COVID-19 has further exposed many injustices within American society, and sadly, the plight of college athletes is one of those. As a direct result of the NCAA failing these student athletes for decades, states like California, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska and New Jersey took steps to correct this injustice by allowing players to profit off of their name, image, and likeness. The NCAA, however, has put forth a meager proposal that merely puts a band-aid on the gaping wound it has allowed to become infected. I am committed to advancing a law that far accedes the NCAA’s proposal.”

The framework was first announced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and supported by Chris Murphy (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

Senator Blumenthal stated, “The present state of college athletics is undeniably exploitive. The deep unfairness of the system is on full display this year with the COVID-19 crisis as schools, for the most part, make clear where their priorities really lie: with making money, not protecting athletes. The literal blood, sweat, and tears of student athletes fuels a $14 billion industry, but until very recently, those students received little in return and were vulnerable to being tossed aside. Reforming this system is about basic justice: racial justice, economic justice, and health care justice. I was proud to introduce this framework in the Senate with Senator Booker, and I’m grateful to have such a strong leader, Congresswoman Schakowsky, carry it forward in the House. We want to give college athletes the tools they need to protect their economic rights, pursue their education, prioritize their health and safety, and most critically, hold their schools and organizations like the NCAA accountable.”

Senator Booker added, “As a former college athlete, issues of justice and fairness in college sports are deeply personal for me. For far too long, the NCAA has denied their athletes basic rights and opportunities while failing to keep the young men and women under their charge healthy and safe. I applaud Rep. Schakowsky for her leadership and commitment to providing true justice and opportunity for college athletes across the country. Our college athletes bill of rights establishes a new framework to provide fair and equitable compensation, enforceable evidence-based health, safety, and wellness standards, and improved educational opportunities while holding institutions accountable to new standards. The time has come for change.”

The College Athletes Bill of Rights will provide:

  • Fair and equitable compensation. Allow college athletes to market their name, image, and likeness (NIL), both individually and as a group, with minimal restrictions and provide college athletes with revenue-sharing agreements with athletic associations, conferences, and their member schools that result in fair and equitable compensation. Though college athletes power a $15 billion industry featuring billion-dollar media deals, million-dollar coaching salaries, and luxury facilities rivaling those in professional leagues, college athletes are blocked from sharing in any of the profit they help create. Given the NCAA’s history of athlete exploitation, any legislation designed to provide fair and equitable compensation to college athletes should prevent the NCAA from restricting or regulating athlete compensation. 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.
  • Enforceable evidence-based health, safety, and wellness standards. Develop and aggressively enforce evidence-based health, safety, and wellness standards to ensure college athletes are kept healthy and protected from undue risk related to their participation in sports and the COVID-19 pandemic, and that coaches are held accountable for dangerous and abusive decision-making. Since 2000, more than 30 college football players have died from heat-related illnesses due to workouts that went too far, while the coaches and trainers responsible rarely face consequences. And for decades, the NCAA has failed to attach any penalties to their concussion guidelines -- making them more like suggestions than rules.
  • Improved educational outcomes and opportunities. Provide college athletes with commensurate lifetime scholarships while increasing transparency and accountability to ensure college athletes receive the educational opportunities they deserve and have earned. Fewer than six in 10 entering college freshman students graduate in four years, and most of those students do not experience the strain and time constraints that college athletes face. Graduation rates for Black athletes are significantly lower than white athletes—just 55 percent of Black male athletes from the Power 5 conferences graduate within six years. Even more, some college athletes are pressured toward enrolling in less challenging classes and majors to allow for more time and focus on sports, or so that their coach can cash-in on bonuses associated with higher grade point averages, while other colleges engage in academic fraud to keep their athletes eligible.
  • Comprehensive health care coverage and support with sport-related injuries. Increase financial assistance for current and former college athletes with medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses from sport-related injuries and illnesses from COVID-19. Currently, there is no uniformity in health care coverage across athletic programs or any consistent commitment to help with injuries that carry life-long consequences. Today, the college sports industry makes billions off the physical exploits of unpaid athletes, but bears almost no long term responsibility to pay for the damage done to athletes’ bodies during the time they wear the school’s uniform.
  • Accountability across college sports. Require each school to provide more detailed annual public reporting that describes total sources of revenues and expenditures, including compensation for athletic department personnel and booster donations, as well as reporting on the number of hours athletes commit to athletic activities, including all mandatory workouts, “voluntary” workouts, film study, and game travel, and academic outcomes, disaggregated by athletic program, race and ethnicity, and gender.
  • Freedom for college athletes to attend the institution of their choice. Ban restrictions and penalties that prevent college athletes from attending the institution of their choice, including penalties associated with transferring schools and penalties hidden behind National Letters of Intent. Too often, high school students are pressured to sign National Letters of Intent that perpetuate the power imbalance between athletes and the colleges that recruit them: the school can withdraw from the agreement without penalty, while the college athlete can lose a full season and year of eligibility if they decide to attend a different college.
  • An oversight panel that gives athletes a real voice. Establish a permanent commission, led by current and former college athletes, policy experts, academics, and administration officials, to give athletes a meaningful voice and level the playing field by establishing baseline rules that govern college sports.