New Illinois Law Allows College Athletes to be Paid for Endorsements

Video:  State Rep. Kam Buckner, a sponsor of the Student-Athlete Endorsement Rights Act, appears on “Chicago Tonight” to discuss the new law. (Produced by Evan Garcia)

A new state law allows Illinois college athletes to play ball with – and make bank from – businesses, by entering into endorsement deals and doing commercials.

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The Student-Athlete Endorsement Rights Act will for the first time allow a student-athlete to be compensated for the use of their name, voice, image or likeness.

Sponsoring Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, who played football at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said he was fortunate to lead the fight 14 years after taking off his orange helmet.

“This bill is about equity, it’s about parity, it’s about autonomy, it’s about the fair market, it’s about the legal tenet that we call the right to publicity. But moreover, this bill is essentially about fairness. Fairness, fairness, fairness,” Buckner said. “This bill is long overdue, and what we are signaling here is that we cannot continue to economically suppress these young people while they infuse tremendous amounts of money into our economies.”

Bucker said it’s not “just a win” for the star quarterback.

“This gives the women’s tennis player an opportunity to be compensated for teaching lessons back at her hometown during summer breaks,” he said. “This creates an apparatus for the woman’s softball player to lend her image to the local pizzeria for fair market value.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the law (SB2338  / Public Act 102-0042) Tuesday at the State Farm Center, the on-campus auditorium where UIUC’s basketball teams play.

“This is something we’ve all been dreaming of,” Illini offensive lineman Vederian Lowe said. “This is a big deal for all of us. Being part of the student-athlete community, this is something we all think we deserve and that we need. You know we put countless hours in no matter what sport that we’re in.”

The law contains safeguards that prohibit prospective recruits from entering into agreements with universities and athletic organizations.

DePaul Athletic Director DeWayne Peevy said it will help with recruitment in an “increasingly competitive collegiate athletics landscape,” and noted that DePaul student-athletes go to school in the nation’s third largest media market.

Universities are able to impose “reasonable” limitations in order to protect the integrity of their programs, but they cannot punish student-athletes for taking endorsement deals.

Student-athletes also cannot enter publicity agreements promoting gambling, sports betting, marijuana, tobacco or alcohol.

A National Collegiate Athletic Association council on Monday recommended suspending long-standing rules that prohibit amateur athletes from capitalizing off the use of their image.

The NCAA’s full board is scheduled to meet Friday and could take up the issue.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

Note: This story was originally published June 29. It has been updated to include our “Chicago Tonight” interview.

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