Michigan Senate Bill Proposes Amateur Athlete Likeness Commercialization
Democratic State Senator Adam Hollier of Detroit has proposed Senate Bill 660, which would extend likeness commercialization rights to all amateur athletes, regardless of level or league. While similar legislation has been proposed recently in the state supporting the measure for college athletes, Hollier thinks such a measure does not go far enough and would extend the allowance throughout the whole of amateur sports.
While the legislation is certain to raise more than a few eyebrows, the argument holds that an arbitrary cutoff at the college level is without logical merit and increases in the competitiveness and prevalence of nationally traveling club sports, AAU programs, etc. warrants the consideration that a market has developed in which even high school athletes could claim some value to their likeness being used commercially.
The move would certainly flip the industry on its head as many clubs advertise their teams with the athletes filling out their rosters. The possibility that players at younger and younger levels may be negotiating the best contract for their services before signing to club teams is a new frontier in sport and would certainly go beyond selling the prestige, cool gear and coaching benefits a club might provide and perhaps extend to how a player could be benefited commercially for signing with a particular organization.
The legislation seems very unlikely to leave committee as support for such a measure falls well below that of allowing similar benefits in the college ranks. While some may begrudge the changing landscape of college landscape with players becoming more like free agents and less like recruits, proponents suggest that such a belief has long been a thin veneer of amateurism above an underbelly of big business for decades.
Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, one thing is certain: College sports and perhaps amateur sports in general are destined for a sea-change in the coming years. Whether that change is a positive for amateur sports as a whole is yet to be seen. Will the allure of college athletics lose its luster and relegate it to the relevance of “minor leagues” or will individual athletes be able to harness this new tool in a way that allows them to transcend the major traditional brands in amateur sport? Only time will tell.