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Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are again proposing changes to state law that would allow college athletes to profit from their play.

State Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) and Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) announced on Tuesday a two-bill package that would give Division 1 athletes in Tennessee the right to profit from their likeness and set up a trust fund for athletes to tap into upon their graduation.

“None of the rules of the NCAA trump state law,” Parkinson said.

Both lawmakers cited the case of James Wiseman, a top basketball recruit held out of competition by the NCAA because Penny Hardaway, before he became head coach at the University of Memphis, gave money to Wiseman’s family to help them move.

Kelsey was successful in 2019 passing a nonbinding resolution urging athletics directors at Tennessee colleges to work with their conferences to end the NCAA’s ban on player compensation. Reaction from Tennessee colleges has been “mixed,” Parkinson said.

Under the trust fund system proposed by the lawmakers, colleges would contribute one percent of athletics revenues to a state-managed fund, from which graduated athletes could apply for post-graduation grants. Athletes from revenue-generating sports would be eligible for larger grants than students from other sports, under the proposal as written.

In 2019, the California legislature passed a law giving student athletes the right to profit from their likeness by signing endorsement deals. The NCAA strongly protested. The bill does not take effect until 2023. (Parkinson proposed similar legislation in 2013.)

NCAA leadership later softened its stance on the issue, voting in October to begin exploring similar changes.

“This change is coming, whether you like it or not,” Kelsey said.

This post originally appeared in our sister publication, the Nashville Post. 

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