Tennessee state lawmakers file set of bills to compensate college athletes

Bills could alter college athletics in Tennessee

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Two Tennessee state lawmakers from the Memphis area filed a set of landmark bills that could change how college athletics operate in the state of Tennessee forever.

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, and State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, stood next to former Vanderbilt defensive lineman Alphonso Harvey Tuesday and presented a two-bill package that could drastically alter college athletics in Tennessee.

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“The NCAA has been making billions of dollars off our college athletes for years and it’s time for this to end,” said Kelsey.

Senate Bill 1636, if passed, would allow Division 1 athletes in Tennessee to profit off their own likeness. Under current NCAA regulations, athletes are considered amateurs and not allowed to be paid.

“They could hire you, and they could say ‘hey you’re going to be our spokesman and we’re going to put your name and your face up there’,” said Kelsey.

One provision of SB 1636 was specifically added with former Memphis Tiger James Wiseman in mind. If a college coach donates to a school, that donation could not be used to discriminate against a college athlete.

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“The NCAA is an organization, they have their rules,” said Parkinson. “But none of the rules of the NCAA trump state law.”

The second bill, House Bill 1710, would set up a trust fund using 1% of the revenue from Tennessee's Division 1 college sports programs.

Upon graduation, an athlete from revenue generating sports, like football or basketball, could apply for up to $50,000, while non-revenue generating sport athletes could apply for $25,000 upon graduation.

“To have some level of support as they move on in life,” said Harvey. “It could be extremely helpful. And I think today is a great day.”

“We think it encourages graduation, we also think the whole legislative package will encourage recruitment in the state of Tennessee,” said Parkinson.

The bill package still has a long process before possibly becoming state law.

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