By Madeline Coats
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
OLYMPIA — College students enrolled in an institution of higher education in Washington state could receive compensation for their athletic services, should House Bill 1084 become law.
The proposed bill is sponsored by Reps. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, and Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor.
“It has been famously remarked that states are laboratories of democracy,” said Stokesbary at a public hearing on Jan. 23. The Republican legislator believes HB 1084 would put the infamous quote to use.
According to the bill, students could reserve the right to hire agents to represent their interests. The bill also proposes that athletes be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness in live games, telecast, video games and other footage.
HB 1084 argues unfairness in forcing athletes to choose between losing those rights and participating in collegiate sports competitions. The bill prohibits the penalization of a student or athletic team for collecting payment or hiring an agent.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association regulates and enforces rules for athletic competitions at colleges, universities and athletic conferences. The nonprofit organization currently prohibits student athletes from being paid for their athletic ability in commercial endorsements.
“If states are laboratories of democracy, we hope you understand that we would rather not be the lab rat,” said Chris Mulick, director of state relations for Washington State University, in opposition to the bill.
A University of Washington representative also voiced concern.
“We do have serious concerns that this would encourage our student-athletes to violate NCAA bylaws,” said Joe Dacca, director of state relations at UW.
Dacca and Mulick share a desire not to risk the eligibility of each institution’s athletes to play for the association, they explained at the hearing.
“Membership at the NCAA is not a right, it’s a privilege,” Dacca said at the hearing. “It allows our student athletes to represent the UW and the state on a national and global stage.”
Over the years, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and its represented institutions have become a multi-billion dollar enterprise, Stokesbary said. Each body is getting extremely wealthy from this system, except for the college athletes themselves, he said.
According to the NCAA, students can receive scholarships or student aid to cover the cost of tuition, room and board and required textbooks.
The bill cites legal actions within the past few years alleging that the association’s rules against compensation are an unlawful restraint of trade and violate antitrust laws.
Various court cases regarding student athlete compensation have been argued across the nation, Stokesbary said. The athletic association has argued that their rules against payment for college athletes exist in order for them to have a full scholastic experience, he said.
“Part of the scholastic experience is trying to figure out who is going to pay you money to do something you are good at, so you can afford to eat something besides Easy Mac and Top Ramen.”
According to Stokesbary, athletes are not typically able to get summer jobs with their rigorous schedule, making it difficult for them to earn an income and get job experience. Student athletes are prohibited from working while their sports season is in progress, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
“I would submit that this bill is not about paying athletes, it is merely about leveling the playing field between athletes and non-athletes at our institutions of higher education,” said Stokesbary.
This story is part of a series of reports from the Washington State Legislature provided by a news team sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.