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SALT LAKE CITY — Two U.S. senators have formed a bipartisan working group to look at compensation for college athletes.
Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., say the group will provide an informal setting for lawmakers, universities, athletes and experts to talk about athlete pay and related matters. The move is another step toward Congress getting more involved in the issue.
Romney is an advocate for paying college athletes, particularly those who come from poor backgrounds.
“It’s not fair for student athletes, especially those coming from low-income families, to give so much time and energy to their sport without any kind of compensation,” he said. “We need to find a way to resolve this inequity while preserving the integrity of collegiate sports.”
Romney met with athletic directors from Utah colleges and universities last month to discuss how the NCAA and possibly Congress could deal with the growing movement to pay college athletes.
California’s Fair Pay for Play legislation sparked similar proposals in at least 20 other states, though not in Utah. In October, the NCAA board of governors voted to allow student-athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness once its three divisions decide on rules for such opportunities.
Romney — who earlier told the NCAA, “We’re coming after you” — said he wants some action from the NCAA or Congress by the time the California law takes effect in three years.
It’s not fair for student athletes, especially those coming from low-income families, to give so much time and energy to their sport without any kind of compensation.
Murphy said the NCAA uses college athletes as “commodities” to make money for itself, universities and corporations. Athletes, he said, aren’t paid for the work they do, nor do they get appropriate health care and academic opportunities.
“The majority of executives and coaches who are getting rich off college athletics are white, while the majority of the players at the big-time sports programs are black. This is a civil rights issue, and I’m glad to launch this bipartisan working group to fix the inequities in this broken system,” he said.
Murphy has released two reports focused on college athletes’ compensation and academic rights in a series called Madness Inc.
Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., David Perdue, R-Ga., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., who played football at Stanford, are also members of the working group.
Booker said he understands how difficult it is to balance schools and sports. He said the current system exploits college athletes and needs to change.
“Student-athletes — especially black athletes, who are disproportionately represented in revenue-generating sports — are a massive source of revenue for colleges and media companies, yet they aren’t allowed to share in the enormous value they create. And these injustices perpetuate longer after students’ playing days are over in the form of student debt and a lifetime of injuries,” he said.
Rubio said having 50 different state laws for paying student-athletes would result in “chaos and endless litigation.” He said the working group has a tough task, but it is clear Congress must address the issue.
Perdue said the NCAA is right to address the compensation issue, and the only way to find a balanced solution is to ensure all stakeholders have a seat at the table.