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Colorado governor signs college athlete name, image and likeness bill

Colorado governor signs college athlete name, image and likeness bill

March 20, 2020

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Friday signed a bill designed to help college athletes in the state profit off their names, images and likenesses.

The law is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2023, putting it on the same schedule as a law that California approved last fall. The Florida legislature last week sent a name, image and likeness bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had announced his support for such a measure. 

Amid the coronavirus crisis, Polis signed the bill administratively, meaning there was no audience for this final step. The governor’s spokesman, Conor Cahill, said the office had no further immediate comment. The bill was among 35 that Polis signed Friday across an array of issues, according to a list posted by his office.

The bill passed the state House of Representatives just over two weeks ago by a 55-9 margin. It was approved Feb. 12 by a unanimous vote in the state Senate, where it originated.

Similar bills are pending in more than 20 other states. Nebraska’s single-chamber legislature has voted in favor of such a bill twice, moving the measure to a final vote. But on Monday, those lawmakers announced that they had postponed continuation of their session “until it is safe and necessary to call members back.”

The NCAA has asked for help from Congress as it faces the possibility of state-by-state action, and the association announced this week that its governing boards remain scheduled to receive recommendations concerning national rules changes at meetings in late April.

Last October, in response to the California bill, the NCAA’s Board of Governors said it would permit student athletes to profit from the use of their names, images and likenesses. The organization, which governs most of the nation’s college sports, is working on rules that can be applied nationally.

The Colorado bill specifically prohibits colleges and universities from providing prospective athletes with compensation prior to their signing of a scholarship offer or financial-aid agreement.

The law’s wording is somewhat confusing and left at least one legislator disappointed with the final product.

In one section, the bill states that “except as may be required by the rules or requirements of an athletic association of which an institution is a member” a school shall not uphold any rule that prevents an athlete from earning compensation from the use of their name, image or likeness.

In the next section, the bill says an athletic association shall not “prevent a student athlete from earning compensation from” the use of their name, image or likeness or “prevent an institution from participating in intercollegiate athletics” because an athlete receives such compensation.

An athletic association is defined in the bill as “an athletic association, conference, or other group or organization with authority over intercollegiate athletics” and it expressly says the definition includes the NCAA or any successor organization.

At present, the NCAA’s rules do not prohibit athletes from making money off their name, image or likeness, although they do set up significant restrictions.

All of this adds up to questions about whether the bill would have a significant impact for athletes in Colorado.

The night of the bill passage by the House, Rep. Leslie Herod, one of the bill’s House sponsors, emphasized that the bill won’t allow schools to pay athletes, but it is intended to let athletes make money from “social media, a local pizza shop and things like that.”

However, House Majority Leader Alec Garnett — who voted against the bill— said that night it “doesn’t let anything happen without approval from the NCAA or the conference that a school is in. I don’t feel like we pushed the NCAA or other states hard. I’m opposed to the stand we have taken.”

Contributing: Kelly Lyell, The Coloradoan