Future of College Sports: Government’s Role in Athlete Pay

Event information
Tue Dec 17, 2019
12:30pm - 2:30pm
Aspen Institute, 8th Floor
2300 N St, NW
Washington, DC
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The NCAA has long denied college athletes the opportunity to gain from the commercial use of their identify rights. In May 2018, our Future of Sports series posed the question: What if college athletes could receive sponsorship money based off their own name, image and likeness (NIL)? We explored what such a model might look like.

There is now widespread public support for allowing NIL rights, led by California becoming the first state to allow athletes to profit off their name, beginning in 2023. More than a dozen other states are showing interest in creating similar laws. Federal legislation has been proposed by Republican North Carolina Congressman Mark Walker that would amend the definition of a qualified amateur sports organization in the tax code to remove the restriction on athletes profiting off their NIL. Meanwhile, the NCAA announced it will permit college athletes “the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness,” though the statement lacked any specific policies or procedures at this time, only principles and guidelines for each NCAA division to begin the process of creating its rules.

At our next Future of Sports event on Dec. 17, we will be advancing the conversation. What if Congress developed a national solution to the college athlete pay debate? Should the federal government get involved, and if so, how? What would be the implications for the NCAA and college athletes? What interest does Congress have in stepping in to potentially create federal law instead of a state-by-state approach?

On Dec. 17, we will be discussing this topic with (additional speakers will be added):

Mark Emmert, NCAA president (one-on-one conversation)
Mark Walker, North Carolina congressman
Ramogi Huma, National College Players Association executive director
Donna Lopiano, former University of Texas women’s athletic director/president-elect of The Drake Group
Michael McCann, University of New Hampshire sports law professor, Sports Illustrated legal analyst
Ben Strauss, Washington Post sports reporter/co-author of Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA

The discussions will occur from 12:30-2:30 pm ET. Please join us in advance for lunch starting at 11:45 am.

Registration is now closed for general attendees to attend Future of College Sports. Media wishing to attend in person may email This event will be streamed here live on Dec. 17 and available on replay.  Sign up here to receive email notifications for the livestream.

We’re accepting online questions for us to consider asking speakers during Q&A of Future of College Sports on Dec. 17. If you have a question, please submit it at

Future of Sports is a quarterly conversation series by the Sports & Society Program that helps stakeholders think through key questions shaping the future of our games, the sports industry and its impact on society. Past events examined the future of football, college athlete pay, sports betting, athlete activism, coaching, and the U.S. Olympic movement. If interested in funding Future of Sports in 2020, contact Sports & Society Program Editorial Director Jon Solomon at

Thank you to The Washington Post for its support as media partner of the Future of Sports series.