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NCAA, ACC, Big 12 spend nearly $1M to prevent athletes from profiting off own likeness

The NCAA is spending more than a half a million dollars to keep athletes from making money. (AP Photo/Aaron M. Sprecher, File)

The NCAA, ACC and Big 12 Conference combined to spend nearly $1 million last year lobbying lawmakers in the effort to shape laws in their liking for athletes to receive endorsement money, the Associated Press reported.

The NCAA announced in October it would “immediately consider” updating its rules and allowing student-athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness. It came after California passed a law to allow college athletes in its state to receive endorsement and sponsorship money. Other states followed suit.

In its announcement, the NCAA said it would figure out how to do it and what limitations the rules would hold. To do that to its liking, and without laws such as California’s Fair Pay to Play Act determining the way, it’s turned to Congress and lobbyists.

NCAA, conferences give $1M to lobbyists

The NCAA spent $690,000 in 2019 on in-house and outside lobbyists, per the Associated Press. It’s the most since 2014.

The ACC gave at least $210,000 to lobbyist Tom Korologos and law firm DLA Piper to influence “legislation and regulatory proposals affecting intercollegiate athletes,” per the AP. It’s the first year the ACC paid lobbyists.

And the Big 12 gave nine times what it usually does in two quarters to lobbyist Kenny Hulshof. Per the AP, the conference paid him less than $5,000 per quarter before giving $90,000 in the last two quarters of the year, per AP.

That’s $990,000 combined to keep athletes from making money off of non-NCAA entities for their marketability.

‘No question’ NCAA money is effective

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said there’s “no question” the NCAA has been effective in lobbying for its own goals.

“The NCAA is already at a position of power,” Walker said, via the AP. “Otherwise you would have seen progress. ... There’s been little to nothing done in this arena, and had the student-athlete had proper representation on the federal level, we’d be much further down this path than we are.”

The issue has been around for a while, and with California getting the votes, it’s pushed other states to try it now.

The California law will go into effect in 2023. States such as Minnesota, Georgia, Florida, New York and South Carolina have legislation going through their state assemblies.

Concerns over students’ inability to lobby

While the NCAA and its conferences can give money to lobbyists and try to get a bill it wants, student-athletes have no such power.

“The NCAA is a well-heeled organization and college athletes, not by accident, don’t have the kind of organizational power or influence that the NCAA does,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Calif.), via the AP. “You have to be more assiduous in soliciting the opinion of athletes than you do the NCAA.”

The National College Players Association and Drake Group, a non-profit advocating for academic integrity in college sports, work in D.C. on behalf of the student-athletes. They have a lobbying budget of zero dollars, per the AP.

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