Thursday, July 8, 2021

Governor Pritzker Approves Limited Compensation Scheme for College Athletes in Illinois

In the debate over whether college athletes can seek payment for their participation in sports, Illinois, one of several states across the country, has passed legislation outlining how and when student-athletes can receive compensation. On Tuesday, July 29, Governor Pritzker signed the Student-Athlete Endorsement Rights Act (Act). The Act, which has already gone into effect, provides that a student-athlete enrolled at a postsecondary educational institution, including private and public colleges, universities, and community colleges, may be compensated for using their name, image, likeness, or voice, subject to certain restrictions within the Act and any reasonable policies adopted by their schools.

The Act defines the rights and obligations for postsecondary schools with athletics programs. Schools covered by the Act are barred from creating rules or entering into contracts with student-athletes, which prevent them from being compensated in a manner consistent with the law’s provisions. However, schools may impose reasonable limitations on the amount of time athletes participate in promotional activities and may enter an agreement with the student and any promotional entity to be compensated for any use of the school’s name, logo, or other marks, or bar their use altogether.

Permissible student-athlete activities are also carefully defined and clarified by the Act’s provisions. For example, student-athletes are not to be deemed employees, agents, or independent contractors of their schools or any athletics conference they participate in, which inhibits their ability to unionize or shift liability to their schools in the case of a legal dispute.

Student-athletes are prohibited from participating in publicity campaigns for tobacco products, e-cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, or other activities and products that are inconsistent with the values or mission of their school. The law contains several other provisions clarifying obligations and rights of student-athletes, postsecondary institutions, and athletics conferences, which together create a complex statutory scheme for this sort of compensation.