Two members of U.S. House add new elements to bill on NCAA athletes' name, image, likeness

Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives are re-introducing a bipartisan bill on Monday regarding college athletes’ ability to make money from their name, image and likeness.

The measure from Reps. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., is largely similar to the version that they offered last September but was not acted upon before that Congressional session ended. However, according to a copy of the bill provided to USA TODAY Sports, there are changes that could benefit athletes more than their initial measure did.  

This becomes the third bill related to college sports and the issue of name, image and likeness (NIL) to be introduced during this Congressional session. But unlike bills from Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and from the tandem of Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., this one has support from multiple legislators from both parties. Three other Democrats and three other Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors.

The third bill related to college sports and the issue of name, image and likeness (NIL) has been introduced during this Congressional session.

"We thought that it's time for us to put a stake in the ground so that we can begin to talk and negotiate on this issue," Cleaver told USA TODAY Sports. "We obviously realize we've got to reconcile a House bill with a Senate bill. At this point, there's no hostility. It's not like the House version versus the Senate version. . . . All of us pretty much want the same thing. This is a civil rights issue and we want to set the athletes free — not unlike what Moses did."

This version of the Gonzalez-Cleaver bill has two notable changes from its earlier iteration:

►In addition to allowing the NCAA, conferences and schools to prohibit athletes from having sponsorship deals with certain types of companies, like tobacco companies or brands, it now has a parity clause. If the NCAA, a conference or a school did prohibit athletes from having deals in a certain business category, then that entity also would not be allowed have a sponsorship deal with a company in that category.

One of the product categories where such prohibitions would be allowed is with “any casino or entity whose primary business is sponsoring or promotion of gambling activities.” But because some schools have deals with casinos and/or state lotteries, if they want to keep those deals, they also would have to allow their athletes to make deals in that area.

The suggestion to add the parity clause largely came from Democratic members who were willing to accept the idea of schools having the right to set category limits based on school morals and philosophies, but those members also felt the limits also should apply to the schools themselves.

►The new version also would appear to give athletes greater leeway to make endorsement deals with shoe and apparel companies. The new version says a school can prohibit an athlete from “wearing any item of clothing or gear with the insignia of any entity during any athletic competition or athletic-related university-sponsored event.” This would mean that an athlete attending a non-athletic event or studying abroad could wear apparel in connection with an endorsement contract.

"The athletic director can decide that the players are all going to wear Nike shoes, or whatever, and the players have nothing to say about that at all," Cleaver said. "My belief is strong that the decision to use one's name and likeness should begin and end with the individual, and not with the university."

As with the original version, the new bill’s “rules of construction” — or guidance related to the legislators’ intent — state that none of the bill’s provisions can provide the basis for an antitrust lawsuit. They also state that athletes who make endorsement deals will not be considered school employees.