Ohio college athletes will be able to profit off of names, likenesses

By: - June 29, 2021 12:50 am

Former Buckeyes football player Cardale Jones is pictured at a June 28 executive order signing from Gov. Mike DeWine to allow college athletes to earn compensation off their names, images and likenesses. OCJ photo by Tyler Buchanan.

When a legislative effort was fumbled, it was said that Gov. Mike DeWine picked up the ball and ran with it.

As it turned out, the Ohio General Assembly did get the job done before the final bell sounded.

Sports metaphors abounded inside the Statehouse on Monday as two branches of government worked to enact a plan to allow college athletes to earn compensation off their own names, images and likenesses (NIL).

Ohio joins a growing number of states giving student-athletes a chance to pursue sponsorship contracts and obtain professional agents without losing their collegiate eligibility.

With some of the other states about to see their NIL laws go into effect on July 1, Ohio officials felt pressure to act by then — lest athletics programs here would be at a competitive disadvantage.

“This is a recruiting issue,” state Sen. Niraj Antani said plainly. “We want our teams to win.”

Antani’s Senate Bill 187 was on its way toward meeting that deadline after receiving a unanimous vote in the Ohio Senate.

State Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, introduced the original “NIL” legislation in Ohio.

Things went sideways in the Ohio House of Representatives last Thursday when a conservative member added a surprise amendment to institute a transgender sports ban. The Republican-led House passed the new bill, but the changes weren’t well received by state senators.

Still eyeing a permanent legislative solution, Antani said he called the governor’s office seeking an executive order to put a temporary NIL rule in place by July 1. DeWine agreed and invited a number of Ohio State University officials to join him Monday for the order signing, including Athletic Director Gene Smith, President Kristina Johnson and former Buckeyes football star Cardale Jones.

Just a few hours later, lawmakers wound up adding NIL language to the state budget, which was approved later Monday evening.

DeWine, who has line-item veto power when it comes to the budget, is expected to leave the NIL provision in place. The governor told reporters he supports the merits of NIL legislation even without the immediate need involving competition and recruitment.

“I think the time has come,” DeWine, a noted sports fan, said of letting college athletes profit off their likenesses.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said he views the subject as he does the broader economic development focus in Ohio.

“If you want to compete at the highest levels you need the best talent,” Husted said, “and we want the best talent to know that they can succeed and prosper in Ohio.”

The DeWine administration is more skeptical of the proposal to prohibit transgender girls from playing high school and college women’s sports. DeWine declined to say whether or not he would veto such a bill if it reached his desk, but did suggest again the issue is best left up to organizations like the Ohio High School Athletic Association to decide.

Smith, the OSU athletic director, described being “slightly confused” upon learning the transgender ban was added to the legislation.

That’s politics, was the consensus of those present at DeWine’s executive order signing.

One way or another, current and future athletes in the Buckeye State are positioned to benefit from the new NIL rules. Working in a Statehouse that sees its share of political infighting, Antani offered a statement that likely has its share of bipartisan support: “I’m for Ohio State football. I’m not for Alabama football.”



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Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan

Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.