WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced groundbreaking legislation that will change the landscape of college sports and protect and expand the rights of college athletes. The College Athletes Bill of Rights will guarantee fair and equitable compensation, enforceable health and safety standards, and improved educational opportunities for all college athletes. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN).
“I know firsthand that college sports can open doors of opportunity that most young people never knew existed—but the unfortunate reality is that the NCAA is also exploiting college athletes for financial gain, and disproportionately exploiting Black athletes who are over-represented in the revenue generating sports. Under its current operation, the NCAA is preventing college athletes from earning any meaningful compensation and failing to keep the athletes under its charge healthy and safe, and that needs to change,” said Senator Booker. “The College Athletes Bill of Rights will set a new baseline standard to expand protections and opportunities for all college athletes by providing fair and equitable compensation, ensure comprehensive health and safety standards, and improve education outcomes for college athletes. College athletes deserve better, they deserve justice, and they deserve to share in what they help create.”
“This bill is undoubtedly a big swing,” said Senator Blumenthal. “It’s a sweeping, comprehensive overhaul of a system that is badly broken and exploitive of the college athletes who are stuck in it. But every single provision is doable and based on the fundamental principle of fairness – from the health care trust fund, which recognizes the long-term impacts of sports injuries, to reforms that will allow athletes to actually share in the profits from their own talents. Very importantly, this bill has real teeth – tough enforcement by a Commission with subpoena power and state Attorneys General. Our goal is to ensure that athletes whose blood, sweat, and tears literally fuel a $14 billion industry receive benefits and protections they’ve been consistently denied. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner and leader on this issue than Senator Booker – not only because he knows what he’s talking about as a former Division I college athlete himself, but because he is a skilled legislator and dedicated advocate for justice. With Congresswoman Schakowsky leading the way in the House, we’re coming out of the gate running this Congress and next, and ready to get something done on an issue whose time has come.”
“College athletes are invaluable to the student bodies they represent and the local economies of college towns across America, and we must ensure they are compensated and treated fairly,” said Senator Gillibrand. “With inequalities at every level of our society laid bare by this pandemic, we can no longer wait to enact change. This legislation has the ability to reshape the NCAA for the better by setting guidelines that guarantee our athletes are compensated and protected. I’m proud to support this important legislation led by my friend Senator Booker.”
"Student athletes put their bodies on the line for their schools, but right now they aren't being treated fairly by our college sports system. This multi-billion dollar industry doesn't compensate them for their work, protect their health and safety on the field, or support them in the classroom," said Senator Schatz. "Our new bill will end the exploitation of college athletes by establishing safety standards, providing academic support, and ensuring they get their share of the revenue they help generate."
“I am proud to fight for justice today with Senators Blumenthal, Booker, Gillibrand and Schatz with the introduction of the College Athletes Bill of Rights,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “Just as I did when I stood with the Northwestern football players during their union drive in 2015, today I carry forward in the House of Representatives a just vision for these college athletes. Today, my colleague Congressman Steve Cohen and I introduce legislation in the House that will ensure that college athletes can receive equitable compensation, are protected by stronger health and safety standards, and can hold the NCAA to account when they fail them in any of these ways. COVID-19 has further exposed many injustices within American society, and sadly, the plight of college athletes is one of those. As a direct result of the NCAA failing these student athletes for decades, states like California, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska and New Jersey took steps to correct this injustice by allowing players to profit off of their name, image, and likeness. The NCAA, however, has put forth a meager proposal that merely puts a band-aid on the gaping wound it has allowed to become infected. I am committed to advancing a law that far accedes the NCAA’s proposal.”
“NCAA sports is a predatory industry that exploits college athletes physically, economically, and academically,” said Tom Conway, USW International President. “The United Steelworkers (USW) stands in solidarity with these athletes in their quest for fairness and we support the College Athletes’ Bill of Rights.”
"The NCPA strongly endorses this bill, which is path toward meaningful, comprehensive reform that college athletes desperately need,” said Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association. “Most people don't know that it's not against NCAA rules for a college to conduct a negligent workout that kills an athlete or for a coach or doctor to sexually assault their athletes. But it is against NCAA rules for such victims to make a penny off their own name, image, and likeness. NCAA sports systematically strips generational wealth from predominantly Black athletes from lower income households to pay lavish salaries of predominantly White coaches, athletic directors, commissioners, and NCAA administrators. This legislation is an important avenue to fix all that is so broken in college sports. The NCPA is grateful to Senator Cory Booker and Senator Richard Blumenthal for fighting for the equitable treatment of college athletes."
“We applaud Senator Booker for introducing this landmark bill, which marks a critical step forward in the fight to achieve justice for Black college athletes nationwide who have been exploited by the collegiate sport industrial complex for decades," said Arisha Hatch, Color Of Change Vice President and Chief of Campaigns. "Passing this legislation will help move the needle in the effort to address structural racism in collegiate sports, as Black student-athletes make up the vast majority of players in the highest-revenue sports of football and basketball. Color Of Change urges senators to advance the College Athletes Bill of Rights to protect student-athletes who deserve their fair share of the rewards and profits brought in on the backs of their talent and work.”
"For the blood, sweat, and tears college athletes give to their schools and fans, they more than deserve the rights Senators Booker and Blumenthal provide in the College Athlete Bill of Rights," said Brian Hess, Executive Director of Sports Fans Coalition. "College athletes need fair and equitable compensation; ownership over their name, image, and likeness; access to high-quality health care for sports injuries during and after eligibility; and the freedom to transfer schools. The College Athlete Bill of Rights does all this and more. Sports Fans Coalition is proud to endorse this legislation and looks forward to working with Senators Booker and Blumenthal to pass this bill and grant these rights to our nation's college athletes.”
Issues of fairness and justice in college athletics are deeply personal for Booker, a former high school All-American and Division 1 football player at Stanford University. He has publicly called for allowing college athletes to be compensated for their “name, image, and likeness” rights and requiring colleges and universities to cover athletes’ medical expenses for injuries sustained during college competition for at least 10 years after eligibility. In May, Booker and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) criticized the recommendations included in the NCAA’s Board of Governors report on college athlete compensation as insufficient and urged more sweeping reforms. In June, Booker and Blumenthal announced a bill -- the Collegiate Athlete Pandemic Safety Act -- to ban the use of legally dubious COVID-19 liability waivers, safeguard the scholarship of any athlete who decided not to participate this year out of fear of contracting COVID-19, and require athletic departments to comply with CDC-issued health and safety guidelines related to COVID-19.
The legislation is endorsed by the following: Steelworkers Union, National College Players Association, Color of Change, Sports Fans Coalition, and University of Baltimore’s Director for the Center of Sports and Law Dionne Koller.
The College Athletes Bill of Rights will provide:
The full text of the legislation can be viewed here.