Following California, Illinois bill would allow endorsement pay for college athletes

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WREX/WEEK) — A new proposed bill in Illinois would allow college athletes to make money off of endorsement deals. Specifically, athletes can get paid for their “name, image, and likeness.”

On the same day a landmark bill was signed in California, a mirror image of that bill was filed by Illinois State Representative Chris Welch. The phrase that keeps coming up is “It’s like opening Pandora’s Box.’ Several State reps and a local athletic director say they really don’t know how or if it would work allowing students to earn income from marketing or brand endorsements.

California became the first state to pass what they call the ‘Fair Play for Pay’ act. The Illinois bill is co-sponsored by Peoria Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth. She said, “What I’ve seen over the years, over the last few decades is countless numbers of young men and women who literally don’t leave with anything. They don’t leave with a degree, they leave with nothing.”

If the current House Bill 3904 passes, athletes wouldn’t get paid to play. Under the new legislation they would be allowed to earn money for things like autographs, jerseys with names on them, and video game characters made in their likeness.

Bloomington State Representative Dan Brady has questions he needs answered before he said he can endorse this bill. “My hesitation with it is I don’t really know what kind of Pandora’s Box we’d be opening.”

The argument has been around for years, but this is the first step toward changing the game of amateurism. Brady added, “We came to this school because of a financial package that was offered as an incentive to go to school here to not only play sports but to learn.”

But Gordon-Booth sees the issue a little more clearly. She explained, “The reality of it is these universities are making millions sometimes ten, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars off of the likeness of a player. But at the very same time that player literally cannot even sign a jersey.”

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