Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg

Matt Rourke, AP Photo. 

On Monday, two Pennsylvania state legislators circulated a bill that seeks to allow college athletes to sign endorsement deals and profit off of their name, image and likeness, according to a press release.

Democrat representatives Dan Miller and Ed Gainey told Time they will wait for bipartisan support for the bill — called the Fair Pay to Play Act — before formally introducing it.

The bill’s introduction came after California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a similar bill on Monday. Miller told Time he hoped to capitalize off that opportunity to bring similar legislation to Pennsylvania, with help from Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA athlete who pushed for the California bill.

“Athletes are forced to give up their rights and economic freedom while the colleges make hundreds of millions of dollars off of their talent and likeness,” Miller said in the release. “This bill would help to balance the scales by allowing them to sign endorsements, earn compensation, and hire agents to represent their interests in exchange for the work they do, and the benefit provided to the college.”

“Our student-athletes give their blood, sweat and tears to a sport they love, while colleges, universities and corporations reap the financial benefits of their work,” Gainey added in the release. “If a college football head coach can earn $4.8 million for coaching ‘amateur student-athletes,’ and if corporations can earn billions of dollars using the players’ names and faces, then how is it not fair for them to earn some sort of financial compensation? The chances of a professional contract and thus a payout for all of their hard work and pain are tiny, and we owe it to them to level the playing field.”

The representatives closely monitored the development of bill in California, and the success of it pushed them to act in Pennsylvania.

"I think it’s the right thing for us to do," Miller told The Daily Collegian. "I really hope that we can get this bill moving, and I think California is definitely setting the trend, and we don’t want Pennsylvania to be the last one to get in line here."

Miller also cited the importance of maintaining a level playing field throughout college athletics.

"We also want to be sure the competitiveness in the athletic sides of our system remains strong," Miller said. "And that means if you as a student-athlete can perhaps have more control of your economic destiny by going to a place that allows you to do that like California, you may find that Pennsylvania’s schools may become a little less desirable when some Division-I athletes can control their future at UCLA."

Gainey was originally drawn to the idea as a way to protect athletes from low-income backgrounds.

"We know that most of these athletes come from low-income communities, and they invest a lot of their time and hard effort, and I understand they get a free tuition," Gainey told The Daily Collegian. "That’s understandable. But it’s also understandable that these universities are going to make millions and millions and millions of dollars off the skilled play of these athletes.

"And these athletes, even with their education, are not coming out of college making millions and millions of dollars, particularly if they invested their talents into a university. The return should be something greater than just an education."

The representatives hope that following California's lead will build momentum toward implementing a nationwide standard for college athletics.

"We would hope it should be [the national standard]. It definitely should be," Gainey said. "It’s difficult to speak to that because we still have to get it passed state-to-state, and so right now the focus is on how does Pennsylvania get it passed, and I think we have a great argument."

This story is developing and will be updated as more information becomes available. 

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