Rhode Island House passes bill allowing college athletes to personally profit from the use of their name, image and likeness

The House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) that would prevent colleges and universities from adopting rules that limit a student athlete’s right to compensation from their image likeness.

The legislation (2021-H 5082) would allow college athletes, while they are students, to personally profit from the use of their name, image and likeness, and would prohibit the National Collegiate Athletic Association from preventing these practices.

“These young adults work very hard in college athletics, and the time has come for these athletes to earn money from their own likeness and image,” said Representative Solomon. “Colleges and universities have long made money off students’ talents and abilities on the courts and fields. It’s only fair that we preserve this right for students, many of whom are struggling financially. That right is preserved throughout business and industry, there’s no reason it shouldn’t also be preserved in colleges and intercollegiate institutions.”

Current NCAA rules prohibit athletes from profiting from their names, images and likenesses. That means they can’t sign endorsement deals, sell autographs or memorabilia, earn money for appearances or strike business deals that rely on their association with a college sports program while enrolled in school and on athletic scholarship. 

California addressed the issue with its “Fair Pay to Play” law, which was enacted in September 2019. The law lets student-athletes endorse products and use their name, sport and school to identify themselves, but prevents them from using school logos or other trademarked property in the endorsements.

Since then, 40 other states introduced similar bills. Currently, 19 states have passed legislation to provide student-athletes the ability to earn compensation. The number of enacted bills related to student-athlete compensation has surged in 2021, with 13 states successfully passing legislation.

The exact provisions of such legislation vary by state, but enacted bills generally include language to prevent the NCAA, conferences and schools from barring student-athletes from receiving compensation for their names, images or likenesses.

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.