When Jordan McNair tragically passed away on June 13, 2018 two weeks after falling ill due to heatstroke at a University of Maryland football offseason workout, Jordan’s father Marty wanted to do something impactful to honor his son’s legacy while also preventing similar tragedies.
Since Jordan’s death, Marty and Jordan’s mother, Tonya Wilson, have done exactly that with the establishment of the Jordan McNair Foundation and this latest piece of legislation titled the Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act (HB0125 or SB0439).
“One of the things that we realized was that to be very impactful, policy and legislation had to come into play because what’s one thing people respect,” Marty McNair said on Glenn Clark Radio March 22. “They respect the law.”
Sponsored by Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City) and Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll County), this piece of legislation would allow student athletes in the state of Maryland to profit off of their name, image and likeness.
It would also introduce several measures to protect student athletes’ physical and emotional well-being. Included in the bill are return-to-play protocols for athletes returning from injury and also precautions for those athletes who suffer a heat-related illness, like Jordan McNair did in 2018.
The House version of the bill passed the House of Delegates on its third reading, while the Senate version of the bill passed the state Senate on its third reading as well. Now both bills are in the opposing chamber, and one bill will eventually be passed via reconciliation.
A bill will then be placed on the desk of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who can sign it into law in mid-May. If Hogan signs them into law the health and safety precautions detailed in the bill will take effect July 1 and the name, image and likeness component will take effect on July 1, 2023.
The health and safety component of the bill aims to eliminate tragedies like the one involving Jordan McNair.
“To me this legislation, this is about rights for our students, it’s about rights to their name, image and likeness,” Lierman said on GCR March 19. “But it’s also about the right to be healthy and to be in an athletic program that values their health and their safety and looks out for them. This is really about fundamental principles of fairness.”
Currently, the NCAA doesn’t allow for student athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness. Any other college student who’s not an NCAA athlete has the opportunity to do so, whether they want to profit off their own brand in some way.
One of the areas where this bill could potentially be impactful is for female athletes and athletes from underprivileged backgrounds. Female athletes often don’t have the same opportunities to compete professionally as their male counterparts, meaning that college is an integral period for them to benefit from their athletic talents.
“Speaking as a woman, we have very limited doors and opportunities for us to make money off our athleticism,” said Lierman, who was a rower at Dartmouth. “When we’re at the peak of our athletic ability during college and the NCAA says that we can’t make money off of that, that may be the only time in our lives that we’re able to make anything off of it and they’re taking it away for us.”
Testifying in a hearing during the last legislative session, Marty McNair learned more about the legislative process. He also learned during that time that Jordan had developed into essentially the “poster boy” for student athlete’s health and safety.
However, McNair maintained throughout the process that he didn’t want Jordan’s name attached to the bill for increased notoriety. He wanted meaningful legislation that would prevent other parents around the country from enduring the same tragedy that he and Tonya did with the loss of their child.
“When we testified last year, my thing was no parent should ever have to send their child away to school for them to be anything other than educated and for them to return as a better person than they did when they left,” Marty said.
These increased protections for student athletes along with name, image and likeness has become a growing conversation nationally. Recently, several other states around the country have passed similar legislation, including California and Florida, as the federal government hasn’t addressed the issue.
The NCAA continues to delay meetings about this topic as well.
“It’s my hope that by having a number of states act,” Lierman said, “that will encourage the federal government to create one uniform policy.”
For more from McNair, listen to the full interview here:
For more from Lierman, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Delegate Brooke Lierman