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Universities want to oversee how Kentucky student athletes profit off their fame

Ryland Barton

A proposal to allow Kentucky college athletes to make money from endorsements, autographs, advertisements and more will also give universities broad oversight of those ventures.

The “name, image, likeness” bill is part of a national movement to start allowing student athletes to profit off their fame in the multibillion-dollar industry of college sports.

Over the summer, Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order creating an NIL policy, but legislators want to pass a bill enshrining it in state law.

During a legislative meeting Monday, representatives from the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and Eastern Kentucky University laid out a framework for what they want the policy to look like.

Bill Thro, general counsel for UK, said the universities want the flexibility to impose “reasonable restrictions.”

“We propose just simply saying that universities may adopt whatever restrictions that they believe are reasonable as long as they are in writing,” Thro said.

Thro said restrictions would likely include requiring students to disclose with the university when they’ve entered into an NIL contract, requiring students to get permission to use school trademarks and banning endorsements related to alcohol, tobacco, sex and gambling-related ventures.

Beshear’s executive order over the summer included similar restrictions and allowed universities to require students to disclose their contracts.

It also bans students from engaging in contracts that are in conflict with their university’s endorsements and interests, like UK’s apparel contract with Nike, or U of L’s deal with Adidas.

Thro said the proposal would also require student athletes to take lessons about financial literacy.

“We have young men and women who are barely out of high school, who have an opportunity to make a substantial amount of money relatively quickly. But they might not know things about contracts, about the tax implications of all this,” Thro said.

Rep. Killian Timoney, a Republican from Lexington, said he wants the process to be transparent and simple.

“I want to make sure there’s an education piece that our athletes know exactly what it is, that any typical athlete can walk in and participate and they won’t have to acquire the services of attorneys,” Timoney said.

Lawmakers have yet to file the proposal, but it will be considered when lawmakers return for the next legislative session in January.

At least 29 states have passed some form of NIL policy. Pressure is increasing for Congress to pass national legislation to prevent states from enacting a patchwork of different policies across the country.

The players on the UK men’s basketball team recently entered into a sponsorship deal with a cryptocurrency exchange.

UK officials say there have been almost 500 NIL sponsorship deals at the school since the practice was legalized in Kentucky on July 1.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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