SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff met with United States senators in Washington on Thursday to ask for legislative help surrounding name, image and likeness policies.
“The Pac-12 greatly appreciates the opportunity to engage in productive conversations with U.S. senators in an effort to create NIL legislation that protects our student-athletes while allowing them to maximize their opportunities,” Kliavkoff said in a statement after the meeting.
NCAA president Mark Emmert and other leaders in college athletics have been asking for federal lawmakers to step in and regulate NIL policies. There are currently no federal regulations around NIL, and state laws vary considerably.
Kliavkoff contacted Democratic Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, whom he knows from their time working together at RealNetworks. He and Sankey met to discuss the need for the legislation with Cantwell and Republican Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, as well as other senators from both parties.
“For far too long, the NCAA has refused to allow student-athletes to benefit from the use of their name, image, likeness [NIL],” Blackburn said in a statement issued after the Thursday meeting. “NCAA president Mark Emmert’s resignation is one of many necessary structural changes that will enable the NCAA to support our student-athletes. … I continued to push for the accountability and fairness measures our student-athletes deserve.”
Sankey also issued a statement Thursday expressing his thanks for the “opportunity for conversation and dialogue with members of Congress.”
It continued: “As we have observed activity emerge that is very different from original ideas around Name, Image and Likeness, it is important we continue to pursue a national NIL structure to support the thousands of opportunities made available for young people through intercollegiate athletics programs across the country.”
The two commissioners were joined by Olympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland. Part of the pitch to lawmakers for giving college sports some antitrust protection is that moving to a more professional model for revenue-generating sports such as football and men’s basketball would lead to fewer collegiate opportunities for Olympic-sport athletes.
Cantwell took to Twitter to welcome all parties coming together to discuss the hot-button NIL issue.
It was good to see the PAC 12 and SEC in the same room with the CEO of the Olympic Committee working together on NIL issues. We encourage them to keep working together to come up with viable solutions to protect student athletes.
— Sen. Maria Cantwell (@SenatorCantwell) May 5, 2022
Kliavkoff on Wednesday said the goal of the meeting was to discuss issues facing college athletics with “influential” senators. He followed that up Thursday, saying “we had the opportunity to discuss the very serious negative implications for student-athletes should they be classified as employees.”
“I think it’s more likely that we eventually get federal legislation on name, image and likeness, but we’re also interested in discussing all of the harm that will come to student-athletes if they are deemed to be employees,” he said Wednesday.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, while supportive of the meeting, expressed doubt that anything will come of it in the short term.
“Getting anything done before the midterm elections is going to be next to impossible,” Bowlsby told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg on Thursday. “It’s great that they are going to do it. Whether anything comes of it … we’ve had relationships with the same people they’re talking to for a while, so we’ll see what comes of it. … I wouldn’t put too much significance on it.”
The meetings come on the heels of Pac-12 spring meetings during which athletic directors and coaches sought solutions to better control the NIL landscape.
Kliavkoff told ESPN it’s imperative to enforce rules prohibiting the use of NIL as a recruiting inducement or pay-for-play.
“Either the NCAA is going to get its act together in enforcing this,” he said Wednesday, “or I’m going to be pushing for a smaller group to figure out how to create and enforce the NIL rules that we all agree on related to inducement and pay-for-play. The amount of an NIL payment should be commensurate with the work done as a backstop to make sure we’re not using it related to inducement and pay-for-play.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.