WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced the College Athletes Bill of Rights, comprehensive legislation that will change the landscape of college sports and protect and expand the rights of college athletes. Increasingly, college sports have come to reflect many of the inequities that permeate life in America –where systems fail to protect those under their charge, where hard-working people are denied opportunities to benefit from their labor, and where systemic and structural racism disadvantages and exploits people of color. The College Athletes Bill of Rights seeks to reverse these alarming trends by advancing justice and opportunity for college athletes and setting a baseline standard to protect their health, safety, economic rights, and educational outcomes.
“Being a college football player opened so many doors for me and provided me with invaluable skills that I still use to this day. At the same time, I also saw the injustices that college athletes experience as the NCAA exploits them for financial gain, and woefully fails to protect their health, well-being, and safety – especially Black athletes, who are over-represented in revenue-generating sports,” said Sen. Booker. “To achieve justice for all college athletes and to improve their future outcomes, the College Athletes Bill of Rights will establish a new framework for fairness and equity. It will expand protections for athletes, provide them with greater economic and educational opportunities, and hold colleges accountable when they fail to keep athletes under their charge safe. The time has come for change — and this bill moves us closer to doing right by and for college athletes.”
“This measure will compel colleges to put their athletes’ wellness above their profits. While the NCAA’s draconian rules have built a broken, unfair system on the backs of these athletes’ blood, sweat and tears, our College Athletes Bill of Rights invests in their educational and economic futures,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “This issue is about fairness and justice, which is why athletes deserve access to a Medical Trust Fund, increased educational resources to ensure they earn their degree, and the right to financially benefit from their hard work. The NCAA and universities have benefited from the industry’s inequities for far too long, enriching themselves while leaving athletes with few protections. I’m proud to join Senator Booker in reintroducing this measure which will put America’s over 500,000 college athletes first.”
“Too many student-athletes put their bodies on the line for their schools, only to be treated unfairly by the college sports system,” said Sen. Schatz. “This legislation will establish safety standards, provide classroom support, and protect the right of college athletes to profit off of their personal brands.”
“For decades, college athletes have been exploited and denied basic rights while the NCAA rakes in billions of dollars year after year off their backs,” said Sen. Wyden. “These young athletes deserve ironclad protections to ensure their success, safety and well-being and never face a needless choice between the sport they love and their health, education or financial security. A college student athletes bill of rights is desperately needed to ensure accountability in college athletics.”
“As colleges and universities bring in billions of dollars in revenue based on the performance of student-athletes, it’s unconscionable that many student-athletes become burdened with debt or do not complete their degree,” said Sen. Padilla. “We must make sure student athletes are treated fairly and have the academic, medical, and financial support they need to thrive at the academic institutions that reap the rewards of their work. I’m particularly proud that this federal legislation builds on my advocacy for student athletes and the California Student Athlete Bill of Rights, the first of its kind, which I authored as a California State Senator.”
“NCAA sports has denied college athletes basic freedoms and protections for far too long,” said Ramogi Huma of the National College Players Association. “The NCPA is grateful for the opportunity to continue working with Senators Booker and Blumenthal on their ongoing efforts to enact federal legislation to address chronic problems plaguing college athletes.”
“The College Athletes Bill of Rights bill is long overdue and extremely important,” said Andrew Zimbalist, President of The Drake Group. “It protects college athletes’ rights to NIL income, agent representation, gender equity, transfer to a new school, enter pro sports drafts and return to college, have the same freedom of speech as other students, proper medical care and coverage for four years after eligibility ends, tutoring from outside the athletics department, and a national commission to implement and enforce these provisions with strict penalties for violations. The Drake Group enthusiastically endorses this bill.”
“We applaud the landmark bill introduced by Senators Booker and Blumenthal that takes the necessary steps to advocate for the Black collegiate athletes who have been those most impacted by the exploitative sports-entertainment industry,”said Sakira Cook, Co-Interim Vice President of Campaigns at Color Of Change. “As Black student-athletes comprise a majority of players in the highest-revenue sports of football and basketball, this kind of legislation will address the structural racism of collegiate sports and provide support for Black students around the country. Color Of Change urges elected officials to prioritize the College Athletes Bill of Rights to ensure student-athletes are no longer exploited for their efforts and receive their due share of their contributions to the sports industry.”
“Student athletes deserve more. During my college career, I have been wronged by the institutions that are meant to take care of me,” said Sedona Prince, Women’s Basketball Player and Athlete Rights Activist. “From paying my own surgery bills and nearly filing for bankruptcy, to dealing with the extreme inequities between male and female athletes, something must change. I fully support and back Senator Booker’s College Athlete Bill of Rights and hope that the future of college sports will soon be a safe and welcoming environment for all student athletes.”
Specifically, the College Athletes Bill of Rights will establish:
- Fair and equitable protections for economic rights. The College Athletes Bill of Rights will allow college athletes to market their name, image, and likeness (NIL), either individually or as a group, with limited restrictions.
- Enforceable evidence-based health, safety, and wellness standards. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will work to develop industry-leading health, safety, and wellness standards addressing everything from how to prevent and handle concussion and traumatic brain injuries to sexual assault and interpersonal violence.
- Improved educational outcomes and opportunities. While the NCAA often touts its near-90 percent graduation rate for college athletes, independent studies assert that number is far lower—roughly 70 percent of college athletes graduate in six years while only 55 percent of Black male college athletes graduate in six years. Many college athletes are also pressured toward less challenging classes and majors to allow more time and focus on sport. Under the College Athletes Bill of Rights, all college athletes would receive a scholarship for as many years as it takes for them to receive an undergraduate degree, while the coaches and athletic department personnel would be banned from influencing or retaliating against a college athlete for their choice of an academic course or major.
- A Medical Trust Fund. The College Athletes Bill of Rights will establish a Medical Trust Fund that athletes can use to cover the costs of any out-of-pocket medical expenses for the duration of their time as a college athlete for five years after their eligibility expires if used to treat a sport-related injury. Athletes can also draw from the Medical Trust Fund to treat certain long-term injuries, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
- Accountability across college sports. Adequate transparency is essential to hold people accountable and to continue making improvements in key areas. Each school will be required to provide annual public reporting that describes total revenues and expenditures, including compensation for athletic department personnel and booster donations as well as reporting on the number of hours athletes commit to athletic activities—including all mandatory workouts, “voluntary” workouts, film study, and game travel—and academic outcomes disaggregated by program, race, and gender.
- Clarity and Strength Regarding Gender Equity in College Sports. High profile stories about inadequate facilities and support for women’s tournaments have shed a light on the unequal resources provided to women’s sports. The College Athletes Bill of Rights includes provisions to bolster compliance to, and the enforceability of, Title IX. By requiring higher education institutions to conduct annual evaluations of relevant statistics to measure impact, and by requiring subsequent public dissemination of data, the bill will enable accurate assessments of institutional compliance and accountability. The bill will also require that athletic associations do not discriminate on the basis of sex with regard to health and safety, medical care, athletic participation, facilities, and other factors.
- A Commission on College Athletics. The Commission on College Athletics—composed of nine members including no fewer than 5 former college athletes and individuals with expertise ranging from publicity law to Title IX—to ensure athletes are aware of their new rights and that those rights are upheld.
Booker first introduced the College Athletes Bill of Rights in December 2020 and later wrote an op-ed explaining his support of the legislation which was published in Sports Illustrated. He has since continued to advocate for college athletes, applauding the Supreme Court for a June 2021 decision in favor of college athletes in regards to pay and compensation.