Lawmakers advance bill allowing college athletes pay for ads, sponsorships

Updated: Mar. 24, 2021 at 5:52 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A South Carolina Senate subcommittee Wednesday advanced a bill that would allow college athletes to be payed for ads or sponsorships.

Under current law, those athletes can’t receive compensation for Instagram posts, ads or even autographs.

But a bill that would allow them to earn money for use of their name, image and likeness passed a key hurdle in the Statehouse.

The bill’s sponsors say they don’t want the Palmetto State to be left behind. Six states already have similar legislation on their books, including Florida, a state with a school also in the SEC.

Clemson and the University of South Carolina don’t always agree. But both schools’ athletics directors want their players to be paid to promote products or receive sponsorships.

“Well all know that very few of our student athletes are going to be professional in the sport that they play,” UofSC Athletics Director Ray Tanner. “So now they have a chance to get into the real-world experience aspect of maximizing what this name, image and likeness.”

“This would be legitimate compensation for student athletes and not an inducement to attend a certain school or for on field performance,” Clemson Athletics Director Dan Radakovich said.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agree.

“When a high school kid can become a YouTube influencer and make half a million dollars,” Senate Education Chair Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, said. “I mean things have changed, and its just radically changed.”

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said people need to realize that college athletics is no longer amateur.

“We are paying, coaches, in case of Clemson, almost $9 million a year,” he said. “That salary rivals a corporate CEO.”

They all say it won’t only help the players but also will help schools stay competitive.

“We just want to make sure that we have the ability to be on the same ground as some of the other states and offer our student athletes the best opportunities here within our state,” Radakovich said.

Former UofSC football player Tim “Pops” Frisby said as a military veteran and having walked-on to the team when he was 39, he was gaining national attention when he played and this bill would have benefited him. But he says he still has concerns about it.

“If it goes down the wrong path and players feel like that they are being unfairly treated or that one player is being able to capitalize on a lot more things, the coaching staff is going to have to reel that in,” Frisby said.

The athletics directors admit that’s a reality.

“A’ja Wilson, if she was still playing basketball for a university, her market value would far exceed the long snapper,” Tanner said.

But they also say it isn’t free money.

“It’s not going to be the same for everyone because it is going to be work,” Radakovich said. “This is not a grant.”

Under the bill, players would not be able to make any money from their performance or do any promotions in their uniforms or while wearing a school logo.

As currently written, if passed, the law would go into effect on July 1, 2023. Lawmakers have said they were open to making that date even earlier.

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