College athletes in Georgia could get paid under House bills

By Beau Evans
Staff Writer
Capitol Beat News Service

ATLANTA – Student athletes in Georgia could see their pockets a little more packed if a pair of bills filed by state House Democratic lawmakers clear the 2020 legislative session.

One bill would allow college athletes to be paid for having their image or name used in advertisements. Another would set up an escrow fund students could draw from after graduating.

If passed, the Georgia bills would follow California’s “Fair Pay to Play Act” compensating athletes for commercial uses of their likeness. That act, which the California State Legislature passed last fall, takes effect in 2023.

House Bill 743, sponsored by Rep. Billy Mitchell, would overturn a ban in Georgia on paying student athletes for marketing work. The bill would not require schools to provide compensation, but it would let students sign marketing contracts and hire agents for business and legal representation.

“This an idea whose time has come,” said Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain. “Georgia schools would be at a decisive disadvantage when it comes to recruiting with other states that join California in implementing this act, if we fail to do the same.”

The student-athlete escrow account created under House Bill 766 would collect 33% of all revenues from college and university athletic competitions in Georgia, payable after graduation. Its sponsor, Rep. Sandra Scott, said the bill aims to give a square deal and graduation incentive for student athletes whose efforts have raised big revenues for schools.

“These young athletes make millions of dollars for our colleges and universities,” said Scott, D-Rex. “Now it is time that we make it right for them.”

Opposition to similar athlete-compensation bills in other states has stemmed from concerns that wealthier colleges could wage bidding wars to lure prospective students and distract from the overall learning experience. Several California universities opposed that state’s legislation, as did the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

“The bill threatens to alter materially the principles of intercollegiate athletics and create local differences that would make it impossible to host fair national championships,” NCAA President Mark Emmert wrote in a letter to California lawmakers in June.

The legislative session in Georgia begins its second week on Monday.

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