Feb 12, 2020 - Sports

NCAA president appears before Congress

NCAA president Mark Emmert
NCAA president Mark Emmert at Tuesday's hearing. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

NCAA president Mark Emmert and four other witnesses testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee yesterday, as the issue of student-athletes profiting off their name, image and likeness (NIL) took center stage in the nation's capital.

"Sports is something that cuts across party lines, it cuts across geography and it's so ingrained in our culture. Everyone wants to see that if nothing else in our country works, they want to see our sports work."
Sen. Jon Thune (R-S.D.)

Driving the news: Senators during the hearing questioned whether the NCAA could be trusted to get this right — and even Emmert publicly acknowledged that, as the NCAA works to revamp its rules, "we may need Congress' support in helping maintain uniform standards in college sports."

  • This is indicative of the NCAA's fear that states will pass their own NIL laws with slight variations, leading to competitive unbalance across its 1,1000 member schools and regulatory chaos.
  • National College Players Association Executive Director Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player, thanked the states for being the catalyst that brought the NCAA to the table.

What to watch: For all the frustration lawmakers projected yesterday, Congress "did not seem poised to act immediately," notes NYT's Alan Blinder — a result of a Washington consumed with election-year politics and "rooted in lobbying" (the NCAA spent $750,000 last year on lobbying).

  • With dozens of states considering whether to follow California's lead, that wait-and-see approach could embolden them to take matters into their own hands and challenge the NCAA on their own.

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