Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver is heading up a bipartisan bill that would let college athletes profit from endorsement deals. It would only restrict sponsors involving alcohol, tobacco, controlled substances, adult entertainment and gambling. Cleaver, a Democrat from Kansas City, says the plan would ban universities from putting restrictions on athletes seeking control of their name, image and likeness.
“Only a small percentage of those kids will ever play on a Sunday afternoon in an NFL football game or an NBA basketball game,” says Cleaver. “That’s just not likely. But they go to college and they are used. The school is making money.”
Cleaver says legalizing the activity is about civil rights because many of the student athletes are people of color.
“They come out of very poor backgrounds – many of them,” says Cleaver. “I mean, they’re in school with nothing and it’s illegal right now for them to go out and accept a cheeseburger from a big company and ruin their career and then put an early mark on their record for life.”
Many athletes get things like scholarships, free meals, athletic gear and healthcare services. If they play in a bigger bowl game, football players are also awarded items, such as gift cards, Fossil watches and Xboxes.
The bill includes a layer of Congressional oversight. Cleaver admits that corruption will still exist.
“They do it on everything we do, from income taxes to some pastors misusing their position to take advantage of kids. I mean, that’s just going to happen,” says Cleaver. “I don’t think it’s going to be any more prevalent here than anything else.”
There is a bipartisan effort at the state level, led by State Representative Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City, to pass a similar measure.
To view Cleaver’s bill, click here.
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