Business and Labor

Amateur athlete income provisions considered

The Business and Labor Committee heard testimony on a bill Feb. 12 that would make changes to state law regarding name, image and likeness income opportunities for student athletes.

Sen. Ben Hansen
Sen. Ben Hansen

LB1393, introduced by Blair Sen. Ben Hansen on behalf of Gov. Jim Pillen, would update provisions of the Nebraska Student Athlete Name, Image or Likeness Rights Act, known as NIL. Under the bill, universities in Nebraska would be able to assist student athletes with their NIL endorsements through legal support and access to department resources, such as team facilities, equipment, social media and photographers.

The bill defines a NIL activity as one that involves the use of an individual’s name, image or likeness for commercial or promotional purposes. It would prohibit the details of a student athlete’s NIL agreement from being made public.

Hansen said educational institutions currently are limited in the support they can provide student athletes regarding NIL, and are not allowed to be proactive with their assistance.

“That is insufficient for the institutions themselves as well as the companies, fans and the student athletes,” he said. “The universities support student athletes throughout their entire college experience and it only makes sense to be able to offer direction if [athletes] ask for it when it comes to NIL.”

LB1393 also would clarify that institutions in Nebraska would be able to compensate a student athlete for the use of their name, image or likeness if allowed by a college athletic association policy change, court order or settlement agreement. Should such a policy change take place, the bill would clarify that NIL compensation of a student athlete does not inherently make the athlete an employee of the institution.

Gov. Jim Pillen testified in support of the bill, saying the proposal would give Nebraska universities a competitive advantage to help recruit young talent from across the country. The NIL space is changing the landscape of college athletics, he said, and Nebraska has the choice to either compete or “stay on the sidelines.”

“My preference would be that we would compete,” Pillen said. “LB1393 will give Nebraska colleges and universities the tools necessary to compete to attract top talent while also, most importantly, protecting our student athletes.”

Speaking in support of the bill, Nick Henrich shared his experience as a student athlete at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln when legislative changes in 2020 authorized compensation for the use of a student athlete’s name, image and likeness.

“Football is an extremely unforgiving game and injuries ended up derailing my career and causing me to retire,” he said, “but NIL really allowed me to set myself up for the future and provided me and my family [with] more opportunities.”

No one testified in opposition to LB1393 and the committee took no immediate action.

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