Sen. Mitt Romney expressed concern about potential inequality that could result from paying student-athletes for their names, images and likenesses, saying it wouldn't be fair to have some college players "driving around in Ferraris."
Romney appeared on ESPN's Outside the Lines on Wednesday to address Tuesday's decision by the NCAA to take steps toward allowing college athletes to be paid. The Republican senator from Utah said he generally supports the idea of changing the NCAA rule, but also urged caution in implementation.
"What you can't have is a couple athletes on campus driving around in Ferraris while everybody else is basically having a hard time making ends meet," Romney said. "And you can't have a setting where some schools that are in major markets or have big-sport followings, some schools are like the honey pot, and all the great athletes all want to go to those handful of schools, then you kill collegiate sports. There needs to be some adjustment to the whole name, image and likeness approach to make sure we don't create those problems."
NCAA's top decision-makers voted unanimously Tuesday to start the process of modifying its rule to allow college athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses "in a manner consistent with the collegiate model."
The board wants each of the three NCAA divisions to implement new rules by January 2021.
But Romney, who has collaborated with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., on similar legislation, said there needs to be parity.
"I don't think you can have an athlete at a school making a million dollars a year at that school and lording it over everybody else on the team and everyone else on the campus," he told OTL. "That's what they're going to get when they go pro. While they're at school, they're still a student-athlete, and there has to be some limit to how much money is coming to an individual and there has to be a way to get compensation to other members of the team. I mean, that left tackle also needs to have some capacity to have some funds to be able to make ends meet and to be able to help their family."
Romney declined to address the tax implications of paying players but noted it could be one negative impact on college sports overall.
The state of California passed a NIL bill that goes into effect in January 2023, and more than a dozen states have expressed interest in creating laws similar to California's in the past several months.
Romney said that if the NCAA proposal does not go forward, he expects Congress to take action on the issue.