State Sen. Justin Ready On Why NIL Legislation Makes Sense For Maryland

State Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll County) recently introduced the Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act (SB439) to the state Senate in an effort to provide new protections for student-athletes across Maryland, including allowing student-athletes to earn compensation for the use of his or her name, image or likeness.

The Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act was cross-filed in the House of Delegates (HB125) by Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City). The bill proposes that beginning July 1, 2021, student-athletes in the University System of Maryland and at Morgan State can receive compensation for the use of his or her NIL and shall not be prevented by a group or organization such as the NCAA from doing so.

Last June, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that would allow student-athletes in the Sunshine State to earn compensation from the use of his or her NIL beginning July 1, 2021. In addition to Florida and Maryland, NIL legislation could be coming soon in Missouri, Iowa and New Mexico, according to CBS college football writer Dennis Dodd. In January, NCAA Division I, II and III management councils delayed a vote on new NIL legislation.

There’s also activity on the federal level. Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) introduced the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act, which would allow student-athletes nationwide to earn compensation from the use of his or her NIL.

Ready joined Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 5 to discuss his bill, why it’s important to him and why this is an “economic empowerment issue” for student-athletes …

On why he was motivated to pursue this bill:

“What’s moved me to push on this is I’m so angry that the NCAA continues to act like this is some brand new idea that they’ve never heard of. Even this year, just this month, they had a meeting of all their chancellors and athletic directors and they kicked the can down the road again. They really could have three or four years ago and really come out with a progressive, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do on NIL.’ And at that point, they could’ve made it more structured and probably avoided a lot of this, but I feel like it’s important because they continue to delay for us to take action and try to allow athletes to profit off of their name, image or likeness.”

On how the bill affects student athletes regarding name, image and likeness:

“What our bill does, in so many words, is it says that you can profit off your name, image and likeness. If Justin Ready is a football player at any school in Maryland, I can go out and sell T-shirts that say, ‘Justin Ready: football player.’ I can’t say, ‘Justin Ready: University of Maryland.’ I can’t use the branding of the school. What I’ve learned, though, is that this is something that would help athletes beyond just the higher-profile sports. College football and college basketball are the two big moneymakers for college sports at the Division I level – really at any level. Some programs have great women’s basketball, so that might make some money but generally the other sports are not net-revenue generators. But what I learned was if you’re a great lacrosse player, you can go do camps in the summertime. Susie Smith is an elite lacrosse player at Towson. She can do camps and make money. Why would we not want them to be able to do that?”

On the safeguards the bill has in place:

“One of the things we worry about is we don’t want a young athlete that doesn’t have the best background or doesn’t have a lot of family support, we don’t want them to get taken advantage of and have some agent say, ‘Oh, I’ll get you sponsorships,’ and then take 75 percent of the money. But at the same time, we also don’t want some complicated licensing scheme that a family member then can’t help their nephew or their son with getting these kinds of opportunities. We tried to strike a balance of making sure a person that’s going to do this in the state is registered but not go to the point where they have to be some kind of sports agent.”

On why NIL bills won’t negatively affect the recruiting world:

“The concern, of course, is that somehow it will lead to schools sort of third-party-paying players by getting them sponsorships and support to get them to come to their school. And I hate to tell everybody this, but a lot of that happens behind the scenes now anyway. I don’t think people should break rules, but at the same time if there are rules that are kind of arbitrary or dumb, we should get rid of them. … One of the other big things that always happens is people say, ‘Oh, well, if you do this in the big programs, then the Alabamas and the Ohio States of the world will figure out how to use the system to get all the best talent.’ And you’re like, ‘Well, they’re already doing that with the current system.’ So the truth is it might give the Marylands of the world, the Oklahoma States of the world and South Carolina when they’re competing against Clemson, it might give them a chance to compete.”

On why athletes can be helped long term by NIL legislation:

“This can get a student hopefully a head start thinking about what’s my post-playing career assuming I don’t go pro in the sport I’m playing. The University of Maryland is a great place for a post-graduate career because you’ve got the federal government, you’ve got major health centers, you’ve got Under Armour. There’s a lot of population in this area. There probably would be a lot of sponsorship opportunities for an athlete that came to Maryland that then would give them a leg up on a post-graduate career.”

On why NIL legislation is the easiest path forward for compensating student-athletes:

“I like that NIL gets us away from the paying of the athletes directly from the school because once you go down that road, first of all, you run into the problem of, ‘Can we afford to pay the athletes in every sport.’ Probably not. But number two, there’s the whole thing about, ‘Well, they get a scholarship. That’s their payment.’ Well, a scholarship is a very valuable thing, but they work hard for that scholarship, though. What I like about NIL is it gets us away from some of those sticky issues and it says, ‘If an athlete can go out and make more money because of their skill and ability or their raw animal magnetism or a combination, then vaya con dios. Go with God. Go do it.’”

For more from Ready, listen to the full interview here:

Luke Jackson

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