Why does the NCAA continue to lobby Congress?

College sports are In transition again, this time Prompted by last month’s legal settlement This could lead to schools paying athletes directly. This would be a huge change, ending decades of fighting over whether athletes deserve a portion of the massive revenues they help generate. But before that can happen, the settlement must go through a months-long approval process, starting with a formal submission to Judge Claudia Wilken in the Northern District of California.

This is expected to come in July. Then, should Wilkin proceed with the terms as written? Further steps through the legal system, including athletes having the opportunity to object to the settlement, will then be taken into account by Wilkin before making a final, fateful decision. If revenue sharing is approved, it would likely begin in the fall of 2025.

There’s a lot to keep track of. If you feel confused, don’t worry, you are in exactly the same boat as the administrators, coaches and athletes who will be most affected. But what is certain in all of this is that Congress remains a key element. The NCAA and its conferences continue to push — and push hard — for a federal bill that would provide antitrust protections, a preemption for state laws that conflict with NCAA rules, and “special status” for college athletes who They state that they cannot become employees. For college sports leaders, the settlement makes the push for the legislation more urgent, as they look for cover from the next lawsuit that could shake up the model further. They also remain completely opposed to hiring college athletes, an issue being heard in federal court and by the National Labor Relations Board.

So far, Congress has held dozens of hearings on the future of college sports, but no bill has made it past the preliminary stage. According to several people on Capitol Hill, most members of the Senate and House do not have entrenched views on the subject, meaning a bipartisan solution should be possible. But this does not apply to Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Here are their latest views on whether it is possible — or wise — for Congress to reach a compromise on college sports legislation:

Trahan (in a phone interview with The Washington Post this week): “More people are waking up to the fact that amateurism is dead and that the only way to enforce rules on athletes who are already treated as employees is to either negotiate with them directly or ask Congress to legislate that the laws we previously passed don’t Actually applicable to athletes I haven’t seen appetite for the latter of these two options.

Cruz (told The Post through a spokesman): “There is a misconception that… a house [v. NCAA] The settlement reduces the necessity for Congress to act to protect college sports. Nothing could be further from the truth. Without action by Congress, there is a very high risk that college sports as we know them will be destroyed, and that student-athletes will suffer irreparable harm, including the loss of benefits and scholarship guarantees.

If the bill is actually introduced, that likely means that the Democrat has agreed to co-sponsor the legislation introduced by the Republican (or vice versa). Otherwise, without that bipartisan support, it’s hard to see a college sports bill making it through the House or Senate, especially since a senator could filibuster any bill that swings too far in either direction. An election year makes that even more difficult, though supporters of legalizing college sports say it would be an easy win for most politicians. After an initial committee hearing, the bill must pass through the Senate or House, then the other chamber, before it reaches the president.

None of these complications, nor the ticking clock, will prevent the NCAA and power conferences from making regular trips to Washington. If anything, the obvious hurdles will cause them to book additional flights and keep the lobbying money flowing. There is a lack of results Their efforts have not yet been deterred.

Since Jim Phillips became ACC commissioner in February 2021, five months before the NCAA changed its name, image and likeness (NIL) rules, he has been a mainstay in D.C., most recently participating in a March roundtable with Cruz and the football coach Former Alabama Nick. Saban, among others. He is expected to visit Congress again within the next three to four weeks. Like NCAA leaders, stronger commissioners hope the settlement will convince Congress to finally act on their behalf.

“Momentum on Capitol Hill continues to grow after the settlement. We’ve seen some engagement there,” Phillips said in a phone interview on Friday. “The settlement has only served to reinforce why Congress needs to act. “We need them to help codify the settlement provisions into law, and secure them in perpetuity, so this is not a moment in time.”

accepted the $2.8 billion settlement agreement – ​​which was consolidated House v. NCAA, Carter v. NCAA And Hubbard v. NCAA -The NCAA wanted antitrust relief to eliminate those cases, which included suing athletes over limits on compensation and related damages when they were unable to monetize the value of their NIL. After the agreement, it changed its request, hoping that Congress would provide antitrust protections to prevent the NCAA from being sued in similar cases in the near future. The settlement, if approved, will cover 10 years. The NCAA is then begging for all its power back, feeling it cannot regulate the NIL market and transfer portal without the threat of ongoing lawsuits.

For example, back in February, Legal challenge in Tennessee The NCAA was forced to at least temporarily lift restrictions on using NIL funds to influence athletes’ decisions about where to attend school. On July 1, a new Virginia law will allow its colleges to pay athletes directly through nothing deals, which is against NCAA rules. The proposed settlement for House, Carter And it is cold It includes a cap on the amount of revenue schools can share with athletes, which has already invited antitrust scrutiny.

To that end, athlete advocates have a very simple message for the NCAA: If you don’t want antitrust lawsuits, don’t violate antitrust law.

“By definition, [a revenue-sharing cap and NIL crackdown] “It’s a restraint of trade,” said Brian Davis, a California-based NIL attorney who represents more than 100 soccer players. “…There’s a lot of money that’s going to be funneled through lobbyists in Congress, saying college football and college basketball are going to die as we know it. I think that’s an exaggeration.

When the settlement was agreed on May 23, the data started flying. The NCAA and conferences immediately called for congressional action to uphold the terms. So did Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins, who said: “To save the great American institution of college sports, Congress must pass legislation.” Then he registered the NCAA’s wishes. Cruz and Trahan weighed in the next day, positioning themselves as the most active members of their parties on the issues.

Trahan called on the NCAA to focus less on Congress and more on collective bargaining with athletes. Cruz has maintained his staunch opposition to athletes becoming employees.

Steve Berman, one of the plaintiffs’ lead attorneys, accepted the settlement agreement House v. NCAAHe also visited Washington regularly. It would typically arrive after the NCAA, then face antitrust exemption requests. But with an agreement in place, Berman and Jeffrey Kessler, the plaintiffs’ other lead attorney, pledged to help the NCAA lobby get some antitrust protection. As proposed, the settlement includes a system by which new students can choose whether they want to opt into the revenue-sharing model, which Berman and Kessler believe provides protection from lawsuits challenging the cap or other aspects of the agreement.

“If the NCAA asked us, we would go to the mound and say we’re thinking [the settlement] “It’s a great solution for college athletes and that the NCAA should be given antitrust immunity in terms of pay-for-play and nothing,” Berman said in an interview. “That’s all we’re willing to do. We’re not going to advocate for employment or unions, any of that. We’re not involved in that.”

“The critical part why Congress still needs to act is that the settlement provides a framework but does not provide long-term stability,” Phillips added.

Of course, the NCAA and its conferences are not the only stakeholders here. This week alone, members of Congress have been visited by leaders of the Collegiate Association — a 40-member trade group of donor-funded nonprofits — and representatives of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (an NCAA-sanctioned group that typically promotes the company). Russell White, president of the collegiate association, said his group expressed that it “strongly opposes the NCAA’s antitrust protections, if only because there is a lot to develop before that makes sense.”

SAAC President Cody Schempp took to social media, demanding “Congressional intervention on hiring and none.” Unsurprisingly, the SAAC’s position is that athletes should not be considered employees. in March, The Dartmouth men’s basketball team has voted to unionize. The university immediately appealed to the NLRB, which has not yet issued a ruling.

Trahan, a former volleyball player at Georgetown, has often partnered with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to expand the rights of college athletes. When I first pushed for athletes to gain employee status and collective bargaining power, I knew it would be difficult to find bipartisan support. However, the goal was to plant the flag on the far end of the spectrum, an approach that some Republicans have matched in recent months. It is the middle ground that remains elusive.

“If we’re thinking about legislation that literally turns back the clock under the protectionist justification [athletes]“We have to hear all those voices,” Trahan said. “So the outlook for this year, given the lack of alignment and the lack of more members listening directly to the athletes, I think it’s worth more time.”

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