Last week, the state of Georgia entered the name, image, and likeness conversation with the passing of House Bill 617, which will grant athletes limited rights to their NILs in July of 2021. In many ways, the bill reads like other state-level bills, but there are a couple of distinctions toward the end of the text that make the bill unique, one good, and one not-so-good.
The bill gets off to a good start—part of the first page states “participation in intercollegiate athletics should not infringe upon the rights of student athletes to have control over and profit from the commercial use of their name, image, or likeness,” and prohibits universities from pulling scholarships or impacting eligibility in response to athletes monetizing their NILs. However, in spite of the bill’s insistence that participation in college sports should not infringe upon athletes’ rights to have control over their NILs and profit from them, the Georgia bill creates some problematic boundaries around athletes’ economic activities. First, like many other state bills, the bill prohibits athletes from entering into contracts that contradict their team’s sponsorship. So, for example, if an athlete’s university is sponsored by Nike, that athlete likely won’t be able to enter into a contract with Adidas. The bill also requires athletes to report their monetary activity to a to-be-determined school official, which puts a layer of control and surveillance over athletes that don’t apply to other college students.
Although HB-617 is very similar to other state laws, what really sets the bill apart is its revenue-sharing option. According to the text, team contracts can elect to pool up to 74.99% of athletes’ revenue into a fund that can be proportionately redistributed to all eligible athletes at that university upon their graduation or withdrawal from the university. Although this section rightly rang some alarm bells across sports media, it’s important to note that the revenue sharing option is just that: an option. Schools can elect not to abide by it and some already have. For instance, according to ESPN reporter Dan Murphy, neither the University of Georgia nor Georgia Tech will take part in the revenue-sharing plan, which makes sense from a recruiting standpoint. If athletes at other schools in NIL-friendly states (like Florida, for example) don’t have to share revenue, Georgia schools that require revenue-sharing put themselves at a recruiting disadvantage because their rules are more restrictive, which deters athletes who want to cash in on their NILs. Finally, the bill requires that athletes participate in a minimum-five-hour financial literacy and life skills workshop at the start of their first and third academic years, which is a smart inclusion, and distinct from several state-level bills that don’t require such classes.
Next on tap for LRT Sports’ NIL coverage is the NCAA’s recent announcement about its NIL involvement. Keep up with LRT Sports for more information.
Katie Lever isn’t a lawyer (so her articles don’t constitute legal advice), but she is a former Division 1 athlete and a current doctoral student at the University of Texas who studies (and tweets about) NCAA discourse. Follow her to keep up with the NCAA on