Kentucky governor signs executive order allowing college athletes to capitalize on NIL rights

·4 min read

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) wants college athletes in the state to be able to take endorsement and sponsorship money.

Thursday, Beshear became the first governor in the United States to sign an executive order allowing college athletes to retain their own name, image and likeness rights. While states across the country have moved to counteract current NCAA rules and allow college athletes to appear in commercials and make money for signing autographs, those laws have gone through a typical legislative process. Kentucky is the first state to have its governor implement it on his or her own. 

“The postsecondary educational institutions located in the Commonwealth of Kentucky shall not prevent a student-athlete from earning compensation for the use of the name, image and likeness of the student-athlete while enrolled at a postsecondary institution or from obtaining a certified agent for any matter or activity relating to such compensation," the executive order said

The order has limits on what a player can and can't earn — he or she, for example, can't take endorsement income from a competitor of an official school sponsor. 

The order goes into effect on July 1, the same day that six states' laws allowing endorsement income for college athletes become effective.

How NCAA is treating the varying state laws

The NCAA and its member schools' efforts for federal NIL guidelines has been a slow endeavor and another example of why the NCAA should have moved much quicker to reform its archaic rules. 

As the federal lawmaking process slowly moves on and state laws are set to go into effect in a week, the NCAA wants to make it clear that it won't be enforcing its existing rules in states where college athletes are allowed to take endorsements. And that its rules aren't going to be enforced in states without those laws either.

In a letter to schools earlier this week, NCAA president Mark Emmert said the NCAA was working to ensure that there would be no disparities from state to state. 

“Our current rules, as you know, completely prohibit NIL activities and therefore are in conflict with state NIL laws. Schools and athletes following the NIL provisions of their state laws should not be concerned about eligibility issues. Nor should student-athletes in states without NIL laws be deprived of the opportunity to engage in appropriate NIL activities. We must not allow such obvious inequity to occur. We need to pass new rules.

"If, however, NCAA rule changes are not in place by July, please know that I will work with our governance bodies to develop temporary policies that assure student-athletes that they will not become trapped in such circumstances and that all will have NIL opportunities. I have directed my staff to create proposals to this end. We will provide more details next week as this approach is reviewed by the NCAA Board of Governors and the divisional governance bodies.”

Disparities would, of course. lead to recruiting advantages for schools in states where NIL laws have been passed. That's a driving force in Kentucky's executive order. Beshear’s order explicitly states that schools in Kentucky “will suffer a significant competitive disadvantage as student-athletes seek to attend postsecondary educational institutions that will allow compensation for name, image and likeness regardless of how the NCAA and NJCAA rules against it.”

Schools are ready

As Florida's law is set to go into effect on July 1, schools across the state are preparing for their athletes to make sponsor income. The University of Florida has a page on its website explaining what the new state law allows and what its athletes can do. One of the provisions prohibits "boosters" from arranging a sponsor deal. 

The University of Florida, the athletic department, staff members or boosters may not compensate or arrange compensation to a current or prospective intercollegiate athlete for her or his name, image, likeness.

Players are also prohibited from gambling-related endorsements.

Outside of Florida, schools across the country have formed partnerships to help educate their athletes on impending NIL legislation and how they will be able to make money and retain their NCAA eligibility going forward. 

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