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Mark Emmert Wants Congress to Help NCAA with Name, Image, Likeness Rights

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2019

FILE - In this April 4, 2019, file photo, NCAA President Mark Emmert answers questions at a news conference at the Final Four college basketball tournament in Minneapolis. Emmert says it is “highly probably” federal legislation will pass that sets national guidelines for how college athletes can be compensated for the their names, images and likenesses. Emmert spoke Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, at the Learfield/IMG Intercollegiate Athletic Forum sponsored by the Sports Business Journal, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
Matt York/Associated Press

NCAA president Mark Emmert has reportedly turned toward Congress for help with how to handle the movement toward college athletes having the opportunity to be paid for their names, images and likenesses.

According to Dan Wolken of USA Today, Emmert said he has met with members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate to discuss potential federal involvement as states pass bills allowing athletes such a right. 

Emmert's meetings with members of Congress come after the NCAA's Board of Governors voted in October to look into changes regarding the issue. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Big East commissioner Val Ackerman are leading a group that will make recommendations on how to handle the name, image and likeness concerns in the second half of 2020.

However, Wolken noted Emmert is interested in federal law helping guide the process rather than the NCAA navigating a number of state laws. California was the first of 10 states to introduce bills regarding the issue.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the "Fair Pay to Play Act" while appearing on LeBron James' The Shop:

UNINTERRUPTED @uninterrupted

"It's going to change college sports for the better by having the interest of the athletes on par with the interest of the institutions." Full conversation with @KingJames, @mavcarter, @ed_obannon, @katelyn_ohashi, @dianataurasi, and @richpaul4 as @GavinNewsom signs #SB206. https://t.co/aIVA2b4bUq

Athletes have come out in support of such measures, including James, who tweeted his backing, and Draymond Green, who wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post calling for better athlete compensation and comparing the NCAA to a dictatorship.

With momentum building toward eventual changes, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut told Wolken he would be willing to help write a bill to address concerns.

"This whole thing is a house of cards that’s going to come down one way or the other," Murphy said. "College athletics is trying to be a multi-billion-dollar industry without compensating the people who are making the product. That’s not going to stand in the long run from a moral perspective or a legal perspective."

Murphy is leading a bipartisan Senate group with Sen. Mitt Romney to discuss college athlete compensation.

It appears Emmert is fine with the government being involved in the process even if he clarified he doesn't want it fully in control.

"I have certainly never heard anybody, including in Congress, that wants sports run out of Washington, D.C.," Emmert said. "There’s an interest in providing support because some of these issues can’t be really resolved without congressional action."