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Sankey testifies before U.S. Senate committee

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SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey on Wednesday testified earlier than the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on the subject of student-athletes use of their identify, picture and likeness.

Testimony of Greg Sankey

Commissioner of the Southeastern Convention

U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

July 1, 2020

Chairman Wicker, Rating Member Cantwell and distinguished members of the Commerce Committee, on behalf of the Southeastern Convention and our 14 member universities, thanks for offering me with this chance to testify on the necessary matter of student-athletes’ use of their identify, picture and likeness (“NIL”).

My identify is Greg Sankey. I’ve served as Commissioner for the Southeastern Convention since June 1, 2015. My work with the Southeastern Convention started in 2002 and my expertise features a whole of 33 years working in intercollegiate athletics.

Faculty athletics supplies the trail to academic alternatives for a lot of younger women and men, and our universities are making profound optimistic impacts on hundreds of student-athletes every year. It’s vital that we proceed to offer these alternatives to all student-athletes-both now and sooner or later. these alternatives to all student-athletes-both now and sooner or later.

In actuality, identify, picture and likeness presents advanced and difficult points. We’re tasked with balancing and serving the pursuits of all student-athletes whereas additionally guaranteeing that we’re being honest to a comparatively small subset who might have higher advertising and enterprise alternatives associated to their identify, picture and likeness.

I’ve issues about potential unintended penalties from a number of the proposed adjustments within the NIL space, corresponding to NIL actions resulting in student-athletes being paid to play faculty sports activities, or how we stop boosters from utilizing NIL compensation as a recruiting inducement to attend a selected college. To be clear, nevertheless, I’m not right here to oppose NIL change. It’s clear that change is happening because of each the enactment of state legal guidelines and the consideration of “Identify, Picture and Likeness” legal guidelines in lots of different states. My purpose as a substitute is to share my ideas on the significance of getting this proper to offer alternatives for scholar athletes and protect the traits of faculty athletics that make it distinctive, interesting and necessary to so many in our nation. I supply the next observations in your consideration.

First, as we implement NIL adjustments, our student-athletes should stay college students in the beginning, and never turn into staff of faculties and universities. We should proceed to emphasise tutorial progress and success amongst student-athletes, notably if NIL calls for are added to their already busy schedules as college students and athletes. We should proceed to offer academic, athletic and profession alternatives for the numerous student-athletes who in any other case wouldn’t have attended faculty. It’s essential for us all to work to protect, shield and improve the tutorial side of faculty athletics.

Second, we should not permit faculty athletics to devolve right into a pay-for-play system just like skilled sports activities. Central to this objective is the prohibition of faculties and universities paying student-athletes, straight or not directly, for his or her NIL rights. If universities are allowed to pay student-athletes for NIL rights, at a minimal, the general public will start to understand faculty athletics as a semi-professional sport, and the extent of assist for different student-athletes and their sports activities packages will lower. This challenge has not been on the forefront of the NIL dialogue, as the main focus has been on third-party endorsement and social media influencer actions. The very fact stays that the California NIL legislation that may go into impact in 2023 permits universities-or even head coaches at universities-to buy NIL rights and supply NIL compensation to student-athletes after they enroll. Along with prohibiting such direct funds by universities, federal NIL laws should additionally prohibit staff or contractors of universities from participating in NIL funds to student-athletes.

Third, we should shield the integrity of the faculty recruitment course of by preserving NIL exercise out of recruiting. In sensible phrases, this implies federal NIL laws should remove boosters from utilizing NIL compensation as an inducement to recruit highschool college students or entice enrolled student-athletes who’re contemplating transferring to a different establishment. With out the suitable guardrails, it’s simple to examine boosters changing into the first recruiters who will pursue elite highschool athletes or attain out to varsity transfers, performing with no regard for precise NIL worth however as a substitute pursuing these people recognized by the colleges and coaches they assist. The duty of prohibiting such abuses is especially advanced and would require collaboration to reach on the proper steadiness.

The Autonomy Conferences – which incorporates the SEC, Large Ten, Large 12, Pac-12 and ACC – have labored intently collectively all through this course of, and we have now spent a substantial period of time on these points. We imagine a method value contemplating is to make the pre-enrollment course of and first semester of educational programs off-limits for NIL exercise. We should additionally intently monitor NIL agreements entered after enrollment to make sure these agreements are legit and associated to a student-athlete’s precise NIL worth.

Fourth, we should present significant protections for student-athletes. NIL actions shall be like different business actions in that third events will look to make the most of student-athletes who may lack the expertise wanted in such issues. The record of potential unhealthy actors contains brokers, advisors, enterprise entities and different third events. We want significant agent certification necessities and disciplinary guidelines. The identical is true of requirements that require student-athletes to promptly disclose their NIL agreements and compensation. One of these system will present a stage of overview that protects student-athletes from being taken benefit of by third events. We should design a construction that correctly helps student-athletes who will, for the primary time of their lives, be coping with tax filings, authorized contracts, accounting wants, schedule administration, and a wholly new monetary actuality, whereas additionally balancing their tutorial obligations, participating in high-level athletic competitors and sustaining their very own psychological wellness and bodily well being.

Lastly, we’d like a federal legislation to deal with these NIL points and there are two main causes for this want.

One, collegiate athletics wants a uniform system for regulating NIL actions, as a system of 50 totally different state NIL legal guidelines isn’t workable and would make it inconceivable to assist a system for honest nationwide competitors and championships.

Two, we’d like safety from claims and legal responsibility arising from the implementation of latest NIL requirements and from continuous challenges to the validity of NCAA guidelines. Historical past has proven us repeatedly that adjustments in NCAA guidelines to broaden or enhance advantages for student-athletes ends in litigation in opposition to the NCAA and conferences. We mentioned this in additional element in our response to Senator Wicker’s questions. Final week, we have been sued once more in a category motion lawsuit in search of damages associated to NIL when the present NIL guidelines have but to be modified and have been discovered to be legally applicable in prior litigation. You may recall that I predicted this is able to occur in my June 5 letter to Senator Wicker, solely we didn’t anticipate such a lawsuit to be filed earlier than any NIL adjustments truly occurred. We search safety from claims associated to the implementation of federal NIL laws, which it appears very possible will improve NIL alternatives for student-athletes whereas additionally incorporating some parameters to protect collegiate athletics and handle a number of the issues raised above. We shouldn’t be topic to years of litigation as a consequence of complying with a federal NIL legislation.

My objective is to work with this Committee and different members of Congress to supply a federal NIL legislation that gives a workable path for student-athletes to profit from using their identify, picture and likeness in a approach that may protect the important thing tenets of collegiate athletics recognized above, create a uniform nationwide customary and shield stakeholders such because the SEC and its universities from potential legal responsibility. It’s critically necessary we get this proper. Every year, the Southeastern Convention alone at the moment supplies unimaginable, significant and life-changing alternatives for about eight,000 student-athletes. Throughout the nation, on the Division I stage, these similar forms of alternatives can be found for greater than 180,000 student-athletes – women and men, from all races and backgrounds, in a mess of sports activities, all of that are grounded within the academic values of our schools and universities. The fact is we have now to get this proper as a result of we should protect and enhance every of those alternatives.

I started my feedback by sharing that my total profession has been dedicated to working, serving and main inside greater training by way of faculty athletics. I’ve realized many issues throughout the previous 30+ years, and on the prime of the record of studying is that we aren’t good. But, in faculty athletics, what we do-provide alternative and training for younger folks, interact our public, rejoice achievement and information younger folks as they transfer from adolescence to adulthood-we do all of those very properly.

Within the midst of this debate, let’s not lose sight of the truth that we’re all privileged to take pleasure in one thing very particular by way of the uniquely American expertise of faculty sports activities.

I look ahead to working with you to attain these targets.

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