Missouri House approves legislation to pay college athletes for name, likeness

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — College athletes in Missouri could soon get paid for their likeness and name as legislation moves in the General Assembly.

Discussion on the House floor Thursday was about how paying student athletes could help universities and cities in the state recruit athletes. A handful of other states with SEC schools have already passed similar legislation. Some members that weren’t on board, like Speaker of the House Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold), are concerned about what it could do to the schools’ pocketbooks.

The amendment was added to a Senate bill by Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) and would allow college athletes to get paid without risking their scholarships and the ability to play.

“The archaic rule from the NCAA that is preventing so many people, black, white, man, woman, whatever you are,” Schroer said. “You have the avenue in this country to do whatever you want, success if you put your mind to it, except in the NCAA.”

Schroer said he was a former college athlete and argued the NCAA’s rule is keeping athletes from making money off their hard work.

Rep. Travis Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit) said allowing students to get paid would encourage entrepreneurship in the state.

“To earn from that, from their own brands, from their own name, image and likeness,” Fitzwater said. “We allow this for everybody else besides athletes. Risking their bodies for their sports, they should be able to take the risk of building a business without the state getting involved in that and getting in the way of them earning for what they are doing.”

The amendment had bipartisan support, passing 124-23. One of those yes votes from the Democratic side was former college athlete Rep. Mark Sharp from Kansas City.

“That division one and that all college athletes have been handcuffed for a long time, and I think this kind of opens it up,” Sharp said.

He said at the end of the day, the scholarship doesn’t come close to paying for the number of hours an athlete puts into practice.

“The amount of time you’re waking up, practice at 5 o’clock in the morning, film practice during the day, games at night, practice at night, the weight training at nighttime, the scholarship–I’m not sure if you break that down–it’s fair,” Sharp said.

Not all members agree that athletes should profit off their name, likeness and image.

“This is taxpayer money that we are using to fund these universities,” Rep. Jered Taylor (R-Republic) said. “These individuals get scholarships, and yet we are then going to turn around and give them additional revenue.”

He’s concerned this could make other students or the state make up the difference.

“The university is going to turn around and come back to us and say, ‘Well we lost this revenue because this is going to the student-athlete, and now we need additional resources from the state,'” Taylor said. “Or are they going to raise the tuition for the other students at the university because the loss of revenue that they would normally have.”

Some representatives said this could the help the state’s largest university.

“If this doesn’t pass, more than likely the University of Missouri will be the only school in the SEC not to have this in place,” Rep. Chuck Basye (R-Rocheport) said.

Mizzou football Coach Eliah Drinkwitz was in the Capitol Thursday. Aspokesperson for Mizzou Athletics said he was there because “He had not had the opportunity to get to the capitol since being hired.”

The athletic department issued a statement about the legislation:

In regards to the name, image and likeness issue, nationally and within our state, the University of Missouri continuously pursues every opportunity to positively enhance the experience for its 550 student-athletes. Doing so within a regulatory framework that emphasizes the unique principles of amateur athletics and creates a level playing field for all institutions is paramount to any analysis of future opportunities. We will continue to monitor all developments in this area and look forward to working together with all stakeholders toward a mutually beneficial and cohesive result.

The measure heads back to the Senate for approval and if it passes, it goes to the governor’s desk. Compared to other bills, lawmakers are asking for an emergency clause which means, once Gov. Mike Parson signs the bill, it would go into affect.

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