Va. special-session measure would allow college athletes to profit off their names

Virginia lawmakers are gathered in Richmond for a special session as they consider plans to spend billions of dollars in federal pandemic aid.

But spending bills in the state House and state Senate also include a proposed policy that would allow a college athlete to earn compensation for the use of their name, image or likeness (NIL).

Under the policy, schools would be prohibited from “preventing a student-athlete from earning compensation for the use of their name, image, or likeness, or from obtaining public representation by an athlete agent.”

There would be a few limitations.

For example, schools could still “prohibit a student athlete from earning compensation for the use of their NIL while engaged in academic, official team or department activities.”

Student athletes would not be allowed to earn compensation for the use of their NIL in connection with gambling, alcohol, marijuana or weapons.

A number of university leaders sent a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam earlier this year urging him to sign an executive order that would pave the way for student athletes to make money using their NIL.

The letter stated that the students “are choosing to attend institutions in states other than Virginia because those states have adopted favorable laws.”

One of the people who backs the measure — Virginia Union University’s Athletic Director Felicia Johnson — spoke about the matter during a June interview with WAVY-TV.

“Right now, my athletes are unable to market themselves in any way and benefit from being a student athlete,” Johnson said. “They can’t market themselves on social media, sign autographs at a local restaurant or market any athletic apparel or equipment they may design for themselves.”

More than a dozen states, including Maryland, have approved laws to allow student athletes to be compensated for use of their NIL.

Maryland’s law is due to take effect in 2023.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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