MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
To sports now and news today that college athletes are one step closer to getting paid. That is because the NCAA board of governors has given initial approval to a set of recommendations allowing college athletes to earn money for the use of their name, image and likeness. This plan will need to be finalized in the coming months. For what we know right now, we're going to bring in NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: How are you?
KELLY: I am well. Thank you. So what does this mean? Are colleges and athletes going to start paying their athletes?
GOLDMAN: Oh, no.
GOLDMAN: These recommendations specifically say this is not schools paying athletes for name, image and likeness activities. What it is is athletes would be paid by third parties if they do a commercial or if they use their status as athletes to start a business or if they want to get paid for activities on social media platforms.
KELLY: I see. OK.
GOLDMAN: Basically - yeah, basically, it would be athletes getting paid the way all other college students can get paid. And here's Big East Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman emphasizing that this morning.
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VAL ACKERMAN: We know that non-athlete students on college campuses today can pursue a range of commercial opportunities that are funded by third parties, particularly in the area of social media. And we think that similar doors can and should be open to our athletes to the greatest extent possible.
KELLY: To the greatest extent possible. Tom, is that some wiggle room there - there's going to be some debate to be had over what the greatest extent possible might be?
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Very cagey of you to pick up on that. Yeah, there's limitations attached to these recommendations - no use of an athlete's name, image and likeness for recruiting by schools or boosters and then close regulation of agents. As part of this plan, athletes can hire agents, but they can help only with commercial opportunities, not (inaudible) find professional sports opportunities. The NCAA still wants a strong line between college and pro sports.
KELLY: So what are the concerns about this - about these limitations?
GOLDMAN: Well, that they're too restrictive. In fact, they are rolling back what states have achieved by promoting legislation on name, image and likeness compensation for athletes. To date, about 28 states have at least introduced legislation. Now, California, you may remember, led the way passing a law last year that goes into effect in 2023. Florida could be next.
Ramogi Huma is a longtime NCAA critic. He heads the National College Players Association. He doesn't like that the NCAA wants Congress to pass federal legislation that would supersede what the states are doing. Here he is.
RAMOGI HUMA: Right now, California has set the bar pretty high, which means players should be able to get equal rights. And so anything Congress does to preempt the law in California, the law that's going to be - come into effect in Florida will be a rollback if they do the NCA's (ph) bidding.
KELLY: Just a quick question about timing here. This idea has been around of paying college athletes for years. Why might this happen now?
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, the NCAA is definitely aware of beat of change out there - certainly, the state laws we've been talking about. Also an interesting development - the NCAA is aware of a potential threat to one of its most lucrative sports, men's basketball. Three high school stars recently decided to join a program with the NBA's minor league and bypass college altogether. These three are being offered up to a half million dollars to enter a program to prepare them for the NBA, and more could follow.
KELLY: All righty (ph). Thank you, Tom.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
KELLY: NPR's Tom Goldman.
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