What to Expect When You’re Expecting: An Overview of the Proposed Federal NIL Bill

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A sneak peek into the potential future of federal name, image, and likeness (NIL) regulations has emerged with the release of a draft bill. This development marks the first significant step towards a federal NIL law since the 2022 election, following the congressional hearing on NIL held in March of this year. The circulation of draft bills indicates Congress’ interest in establishing more standardized laws surrounding NIL, aiming to supersede the increasingly complex web of state regulations and enforcement.

Although the bill has yet to be formally introduced, a draft of the Fairness Accountability and Integrity in Representation of College Sports Act, known as the “FAIR College Sports Act,” is now available for review. This proposed federal NIL bill outlines several key provisions designed to address the current challenges and concerns in collegiate NIL, including:

  1. Safeguarding student-athletes who have entered into NIL agreements from retaliation by institutions of higher education.
  2. Protecting athletes’ rights to earn compensation from NIL opportunities and sign with agents.
  3. Prohibiting boosters, collectives, and other third parties from enticing student-athletes with inducements to attend or transfer to specific schools, effectively banning pay-for-play practices.
  4. Requiring registration within 30 days for agents, boosters, and collectives involved in NIL deals.
  5. Allowing associations, conferences, and institutions to restrict NIL deals related to the promotion of gambling, tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances, lewd and lascivious behavior or material, or any other product or service inconsistent with an institution’s religious values. These entities would also have the authority to impose “reasonable” limits on the amount of time student-athletes can engage in endorsement activities tied to NIL agreements.
  6. Establishing a new regulatory body responsible for formulating and enforcing rules pertaining to collectives, boosters, and student-athlete NIL contracts.
  7. Preempting existing state laws.

Most notably, the bill proposes the creation of a new regulatory body, the United States Intercollegiate Athletics Committee to oversee the collegiate NIL landscape. It is worth noting that the acronym – USIAC – when pronounced, sounds oddly similar to “you suck.” This committee will be tasked with setting NIL rules, enforcing compliance, and providing guidance to athletes and collectives involved in the NIL process.

According to the draft, a booster is defined as an individual or entity that has made a sports-related donation to a school exceeding a specified annual amount (to be determined by the USIAC) within the past five years. Additionally, a booster would qualify if he/she/it has provided employment to at least one student-athlete during that period. Collectives are defined as organizations consisting of two or more boosters. Agents will be required to register with the USIAC, and student-athletes must report their NIL deals to the USIAC, providing certain information, including the compensation amount.

Any entity found to be in violation of the regulations outlined in the bill will face appropriate disciplinary actions. Enforcement of these regulations will fall under the purview of “existing agencies,” including state attorneys general, for matters concerning agents and third parties. It’s important to note that the NCAA will still retain oversight over athlete misconduct.

As the first federal NIL bill in the current Congress, this proposed legislation seeks to establish a unified framework for governing NIL rights in college sports. However, it is unlikely that this version of the bill will progress, as its sweeping NIL changes and establishment of a new regulatory body will almost certainly face opposition. Nevertheless, the release of the draft bill signifies an interest from lawmakers in attempting to provide some uniformity to the NIL landscape.