Movement to Support College Athlete Rights Gaining Ground

February 21, 2019

Lawmakers in two states have made gains this month on legislation to support the rights and fair treatment of college student-athletes. 

Last week, a North Carolina legislative panel forwarded a bill to the state's full General Assembly to create a commission focused on the rights of college student-athletes at North Carolina's public campuses.

The commission working on the "Fair Treatment of College Student-Athletes" voted to send the proposal to the House and Senate for consideration. If passed, it would create a commission to develop health and safety standards for student-athletes at North Carolina public universities and colleges, develop a code of conduct for athletics officials, and provide a process for investigating athlete complaints. It would also create a trust fund to pay for the work, which would be paid for from revenue generated by the schools' ticket sales to athletic events.

The University of North Carolina system opposed several of the proposals, because it feels there are protections already in place at campuses and it feels some proposals would conflict with NCAA rules.
And two weeks ago, members of the Maryland General Assembly (the state legislature) proposed a bill that would give athletes the right to unionize and collectively bargain over issues related to health and safety, as well as compensation. This issue has been on the radar for state political leaders since the death in June of University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair.
According to an article in the Washington Post,  the bill would cover all of the universities in Maryland that field athletic teams and focuses on four areas that would be open to collective bargaining for college athletes: scholarship terms, insurance benefits, use of an athlete’s image or likeness and the establishment of an independent advocate to work on behalf of athletes.
While the odds are long that both legislative actions will result in laws that go against the NCAA's way of governing its student-athletes, these recent activities of these two state legislative bodies show the growing interest of politicians to have a say in improving the conditions for college athletes.
“It’s time to ensure there’s somebody standing up for these kids,” Maryland General Assembly delegate Brooke E. Lierman said in the Washington Post article, “and making sure they’re safe and healthy, making sure they’re getting a good education, not being assaulted, not being retaliated against when they ask for safe playing conditions. I think it’s time for legislatures around the country to step in and do something because the universities and the NCAA is certainly not doing it themselves.”
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