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Governor signs executive order allowing name, image, and likeness compensation for college athletes

Posted at 4:20 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 18:18:56-04

(LEX 18) — Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has signed an executive order to allow name, image, and likeness compensation for collegiate athletes in the Bluegrass, it was announced Thursday afternoon.

Gov. Beshear is the first governor to allow compensation for name, image, and likeness by executive order.

“Today’s step was done in cooperation with all of our public universities as well as leadership of both parties,” said Gov. Beshear after signing the executive order Thursday at the Capitol. “This action ensures we are not at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting, and also that our student athletes have the same rights and opportunities as those in other states. For any individual athlete, their name, image and likeness are their own and no one else’s.”

University of Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart issued the following statement following the announcement.

“Today’s executive order from the Governor provides us the flexibility we need at this time to further develop policies around name, image and likeness (NIL),” said Barnhart. “We are appreciative of that support as it is a bridge until such time as state and/or federal laws are enacted. The landscape of college sports is now in the midst of dramatic and historic change – perhaps the biggest set of shifts and changes since scholarships were first awarded decades ago. What won’t change is our core and most important principle – the well-being and development of our student athletes, while they are at UK and, as importantly, in preparing them for success in life, on whatever path they choose. We are extremely well-positioned to help our student athletes navigate this new and complex terrain. Much of what we need to do to support students in terms of NIL – through The Kentucky Road initiative – has been in place for some time. We have a strong foundation, which we will now work to build on.”

The news comes amid national uncertainty when it comes to compensation for collegiate athletes, as several other states have passed similar legislation, some of which goes into effect on July 1. Neither the NCAA nor the U.S. federal government have made significant adjustments to current guidelines at this time.

However, the Supreme Court did rule unanimously against the NCAA earlier this week, in the case of National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston Et Al. The Court ruled 9-0 in favor of the former student-athletes, saying the NCAA cannot enforce rules limiting education-related benefits that colleges offer to student-athletes, such as computers and paid internships, and the NCAA is not immune from antitrust laws.

Gorsuch NCAA quote

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, saying, in part: "It is unclear exactly what the NCAA seeks. To the extent it means to propose a sort of judicially ordained immunity from the terms of the Sherman Act for its restraints of trade — that we should overlook its restrictions because they happen to fall at the intersection of higher education, sports, and money — we cannot agree."

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The narrow ruling did not specifically address name/image/likeness compensation or salaries for student-athletes, but it does leave the door open for future lawsuits.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a concurring opinion, saying, in part: "Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate. And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law."

Kavanaugh concurring opinion NCAA

Meanwhile, NCAA officials are also targeting a new, simplified solution to allow athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness.

"The organization, having abandoned exhaustive NIL legislation that’s been ready for months, is expected to now adopt a more permissive, alternative model most similar to the one proposed last week by six Division I conference commissioners," reporter Ross Dellenger wrote for Sports Illustrated. "The model, a stopgap until Congress can pass a uniform bill to govern the issue, removes guardrails in the original legislation that would have conflicted with the bevy of state NIL laws taking effect July 1. The proposal attempts to level the playing field for athletes enrolled at schools residing in states without a NIL law, potentially granting them unfettered access to strike NIL deals."

This is an ongoing story, and this article will be updated as more information becomes available.

For the latest on how the executive order will affect UK Athletics specifically, tune into BBN Tonight weeknights at 7:30 p.m. on LEX 18 News and More information will also be available on the show's social media pages:

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