Last week, when California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law allowing college athletes to get endorsement deals, he set off a wave of copycat legislation proposed in at least a dozen more states, including Illinois.
State Representative Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Hillside) filed a bill here to make sure Illinois keeps up.
"If I'm a coach in California right now, this is an amazing recruiting tool, and I think it places them at an advantage in the recruiting arena. And so I'd like to make sure colleges and universities in Illinois have the same tool that California universities do,” Welch says.
He wrote his bill to mirror California’s law, including the enactment date of January 2023, and views it as a matter of equity.
"When you see coaches and athletic directors and commissioners making millions of dollars a year, and they make it because of the student athletes, I think it's the right thing to do to allow student athletes to profit off their own names, their own likenesses,” he says.
He points to his own experience as a college athlete, playing left field for Northwestern University. He says he wouldn’t have gotten any endorsement deals, but he has a hunch the team’s star shortstop, Mark Loretta, would have.
"I think if the law in California were to stand, which I believe it will, and Illinois is not on par with California, we're going to have a hard time recruiting top talent like a Mark Loretta," Welch says.
Loretta, now bench coach for the Chicago Cubs, grew up in California.
Welch hopes to call his bill during the upcoming veto session. It has already attracted more than a dozen co-sponsors, and Welch says it’s “picking up steam.”
He hasn't talked to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker yet to find out whether he would sign such a bill, but says early conversations with Pritzker's team have been “positive.” And Congressman Anthony Gonzales (R-Ohio), a former NFL wide receiver who played for Ohio State University, says he plans to introduce legislation that would make endorsements legal in collegest nationwide. The NCAA has called California’s law “unconstitutional” and Bradley University President Gary Roberts, a former sports lawyer, has described Welch’s bill as “misguided.”