SPRINGFIELD — College athletes in Illinois would be able to independently profit from their image or likeness under a bill introduced by local Rep. Kam Buckner (D-26th) and passed by the General Assembly in May.
It’s the latest development in a decades-old debate regarding policies overseen by the NCAA, which is the governing body of most intercollegiate athletics. It still needs approval from the governor to become law.
Senate Bill 2338 allows college athletes in Illinois to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness, or voice while enrolled at a post-secondary education institution. It also gives college athletes the ability to obtain an agent or legal counsel. It would take effect July 1 or immediately upon the governor’s signature if it comes after that date.
Buckner, who represents southern Kenwood west of Woodlawn Avenue and Hyde Park west of Ellis Avenue in Springfield, said the measure was personal to him as a former football player at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Buckner said he and UIUC athletic director Josh Whitman have partnered on passing this policy change.
The issue of allowing college athletes to be paid has been a topic of much debate in the sports world for decades as the NCAA has barred college athletes from profiting from brand endorsements on the basis of amateurism.
The bill does not allow for salary payment for the college players, but rather allows college athletes to monetize their likeness, such as participating in autograph signings at local businesses or appearing in video games.
“This is really putting Illinois in the right position to be the tip of the spear and lead when it comes to making sure that our young people have autonomy over their name and likeness and image and they're no longer subject to not having the ability to control that,” Buckner said on the House floor on May 29.
In 2013, a group of college athletes sued the NCAA and EA Sports for using their likenesses in EA’s NCAA Football video games, according to CBS News. The lawsuit was eventually settled with the group for $60 million.
Buckner was a party to the class action lawsuit against EA Sports for using his likeness without compensation, which was another motivation for this legislation, he said.
“We've seen that the NCAA has recognized this as an issue, but they have refused to actually move on it and they've had some ceremonial votes about it but they have not done anything,” said Buckner.
The NCAA was preparing to revise the name and likeness policy in January of this year, but indefinitely delayed the vote after recommendations from the U.S. Justice Department to hold off on making a decision. A revised policy from the NCAA could come by the end of the year, and advocates for bills like the one passed Saturday have said such measures could force nationwide action.
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging the NCAA’s ban as a violation of antitrust laws. On Monday, justices unanimously ruled that the NCAA cannot enforce rules limiting benefits like computers and paid internships that colleges offer to student-athletes, which The Associated Press reports could help provoke changes in how they are compensated.
Several states across the nation have moved forward with similar legislation, including California, as well as some Southeastern Conference schools such as Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Buckner said schools from the Big 10, the conference in which UIUC plays, are also coming on board with the initiative.
Buckner’s bill, SB 2338, includes some limitations on certain products student athletes are able to endorse, resolving some of the opposition that led to the failure of the bill in 2019. Buckner said there are about nine different categories prohibited by the bill, including alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, sports betting and gambling, among others.
The bill saw broad bipartisan support, passing out of the House on a 95-18 vote, additionally backed by Rep. Curtis J. Tarver II (D-25th), and in the Senate 56-2, where Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th) voted for it.
Buckner passed 10 other bills through the General Assembly and another through the House. Buckner's office had scheduled a Herald interview but did not respond to subsequent inquiries. Buckner did not respond to requests for comment about his spring legislative record.
Peters and Tarver voted for each piece of legislation unless otherwise noted.
House Bill 253 requires the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to publish a multi-modal transportation improvement program for all transportation facilities under its statewide jurisdiction and outline methods for developing the program and develop a needs-based transit asset management plan for state-supported public transportation assets.
Furthermore, it requires the Regional Transportation Authority — Chicagoland's oversight body for the CTA, Metra and Pace — to develop a prioritization process for northeastern Illinois transmit process that receive state capital funding and publication of a project evaluation process. Beginning April 1, 2022, no project can be included in the five-year capital program without having been evaluated under the selection process.
Tarver did not vote on this legislation, which passed the House unanimously.
HB 1158 reforms high school Local School Councils, incorporating three full-time student members instead of just one beginning the next school year.
HB 1765, the Empowering Public Participation Act, prevents law enforcement agencies or officers from conducting background checks on people who speak at open meetings in Illinois, including police disciplinary board meetings, with the exception of when agencies or officers have reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct, threat to meeting security or when the speaker is under consideration for appointment to a government position by the public body holding the meeting. Violation is a Class C misdemeanor.
Peters carried the bill in the Senate; lawmakers were motivated to act after a 2019 Tribune exposé found that the Chicago Police Department had for years conducted background checks on public speakers at Chicago Police Board meetings.
"Kam was able to get it out of the House relatively easier than I did in the Senate, because, again, I had colleagues who felt like you should be able to profile and do background checks on anybody, ever at a public meeting," Peters said during an interview. "He saw something from this Tribune story and just went right at it."
SB 653, introduced in the Senate by Peters, amends the Deposit of State Moneys Act by modifying the definition of "financial institution," into which the Illinois treasurer can deposit or invest public funds, to include Illinois-operating banks, savings and loan associations, savings banks, credit unions, minority depository institutions as designated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or a community development financial institution certified by the U.S. Treasury.
SB 1085, the Educational Planning Services Consumer Protection Act, makes it against the law for anyone or any entity to act as an educational planning service provider outside of state authorization created by the act. Southwest Side Sen. Celina Villanueva (D-11th) introduced the bill in the Senate.
The bill creates thenceforth creates contracting requirements between consumer and service providers and other requirements and prohibitions, including provisions concerning provisions concerning required disclosures, the cancellation of a contract and refunds, noncompliance, civil remedies and an injunction, notice and rules.
SB 1599, introduced in the Senate by South Side Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th), would create the Human Trafficking Task Force, with members drawn from the General Assembly, the state and local governmental bureaucracies and law enforcement, to develop a comprehensive plan to address human trafficking in Illinois.
SB 2158, filed in the Senate by Quincy Sen. Jil Tracy (R-47th), amends the Illinois Insurance Code to provide that any group or individual accident or health insurance policy in Illinois provide coverage for treatment, removal, elimination or maximum feasible treatment of port-wine stains (known for causing Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's birthmark).
SB 2177, filed in the Senate by South Side Sen. Elgie Sims (D-17th), amends the Children and Family Services Act to require no youth in care to store their belongings in plastic bags, trash bags, shopping bags or pillow cases when discharged from state custody or being moved from one home to another. The Department of Children and Family Services would be required to ensure that youth have appropriate baggage so long as youth are moving within the Illinois child welfare system.
SB 2424 amends the Railroad Supplier Diversity Act to allow Amtrak to report a national supplier diversity report and other information to the Illinois Commerce Commission.
SB 2459, filed in the Senate by Far North Side Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-8th), amends the Electronic Commerce Security Act to require IDOT, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority and the Capital Development Board to each accept the use of electronic signatures in transactions between each other and other persons or entities unless they all waive the right to use electronic signatures.
One other of Buckner's bills, HB 272, the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, would make it unlawful to send consumers unsolicited checks, credit or debit cards, or other forms of payment or transfer that, when cashed, obligates the recipient to repay the amount of money included plus interest and fees.
“The practices displayed by financial institutions are predatory and do not provide solutions for individuals who may be in need of financial relief,” he said in a statement. “Putting an end to these practices will protect Illinoisans from unwanted debt and predatory practices.”
It passed the House unanimously with Tarver's support, and Peters became the chief Senate sponsor, but it never received a vote during the spring session in the upper chamber.
Peters said he wants to pass that bill but thinks more time is needed to work on it. He observed that there is the fall veto session coming up and that the incumbent legislators have next year's sessions before the 2022 elections to work on legislation. "Hopefully we can make it happen," he said.
In a statement at the end of the spring session, Buckner touted his work with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus — he serves as House chair — and said Speaker Welch and other Springfield decision-makers "are ready to lead the way to a better tomorrow for all the communities of Illinois."
"As we continue through the 102nd General Assembly, I stand ready with my colleagues to build upon the progress made this legislative session by protecting the critical services families rely upon," he said.
Gettinger reported from Chicago. Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.