I spent a lot of time in February and March covering the Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act, which passed both in the House of Delegates and state Senate in Maryland this spring. Both of the bill’s co-sponsors, Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City) and Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll County), have appeared on Glenn Clark Radio, as did Jordan’s father Marty McNair, the founder of the Jordan McNair Foundation. You can see some of their comments elsewhere in this issue of PressBox.
It was brought to my attention that we had covered the bill SIGNIFICANTLY more than other local sports media outlets, which had largely ignored what appears to be a seminal piece of legislation in local sports history. In addition to taking steps to ensure the health and safety of athletes, the legislation would allow college athletes in Maryland to profit from their names, images and likenesses.
I not only presented information about the bill, I loudly voiced my support on multiple occasions. I even got into a full-on shouting match with my friend and former co-host Drew Forrester, although in fairness we put a handful of those on the calendar at the start of the year.
Someone else I work with in the local college sports scene (whose name I’ll leave out only because I’m not sure how sensitive the issue is with everyone in collegiate athletics) recently asked me why I cared so much about the topic. The NCAA itself has pushed back on name, image and likeness legislation at every turn, and for full disclosure, I directly profit on a part-time basis from employment with two NCAA partner institutions, Loyola at the Division I level and Stevenson at Division III. (For even fuller disclosure, I have worked for others in the past.)
It was a fair question. As someone who is able to profit off of what I do as a broadcaster, I guess it would be easy to just keep my mouth shut, be happy for the ability to make some money calling play-by-play for college games and sort of avoid the topic altogether. If the other media outlets in town didn’t feel the need to talk about it extensively, I guess I didn’t need to, either.
Maybe I should have at least asked my bosses at those schools if they were OK with me being so vocal about college athletes having the right to profit off of their name, image and likeness. I still haven’t done that even as this issue heads to print.
And I won’t. Because the answer to the question about why I’m so vocal about NIL is extraordinarily simple. I care about athletes getting the opportunity to profit off of their literal existence because it should, beyond any shadow of a doubt, be a basic right provided to anyone of legal age no matter what they do. It is about what is equitable, fair and just. This shouldn’t be so hard to figure out.
There’s absolutely no argument, no absurd equivalency that can justify college athletes being stripped of their right to profit off of themselves. It’s patently absurd that such a concept ever existed within collegiate athletics and cannot be defended in any way. (The NCAA, of course, is starting to learn this in court.)
“But not all athletes will be able to profit the same way,” some idiots sneak out in between mouth breaths. Yes. We’re aware. There are plenty of comedians working open mic nights who haven’t made a penny despite being actually funny while Larry the Cable Guy became a millionaire for creating a contraction with the words “get” and “her.” Sadly few aspects of life are true meritocracies. That doesn’t mean we should have denied Mr. Guy his right to be a wealthy but not actually funny comedian.
“It could create recruiting disadvantages,” said other doofuses, including least aware human on the planet and yet somehow ATHLETIC DIRECTOR AT DUKE UNIVERSITY Kevin White. The man whose basketball team gets every game on national television and whose coach does nationally broadcast commercials thinks rowers shouldn’t be allowed to host rowing clinics in the college rowing offseason because it might create an unfair advantage for … someone. Sure.
“Shouldn’t the scholarship be enough?” asked the village idiot who for some reason doesn’t think his company’s vision and dental plans and access to the office gym aren’t enough to show up for work and yet for some reason expects a paycheck every two weeks, too.
There’s no argument. There’s no debate. This is a basic right, and we’re decades late in figuring this out and the state is right to force the NCAA’s hand. I’m grateful we actually got out in front this time.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Del. Lierman and Sen. Justin Ready