Kentucky Governor Signs Legislation for Student-Athletes

Gov. Beshear Signs Legislation Allowing Kentucky’s Student-Athletes to Profit from their Name, Image and Likeness

Last year, Gov. Beshear was the first governor to sign an executive order to allow compensation

FRANKFORT, KY (STL.News) Joined by state lawmakers, university leaders, coaches and student-athletes, Gov. Andy Beshear signed legislation today that allows student-athletes in Kentucky to receive fair compensation for the use of their name, image and likeness.

In June of last year, after consulting with lawmakers and universities, Gov. Beshear was the first governor to sign an executive order immediately allowing students to receive such compensation after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA and its rules limiting educational benefits for college players as part of their scholarships.  Senate Bill 6 codifies the Governor’s Executive Order 2021-418 in state law.

“Today we are once again showing some of that Team Kentucky spirit by working together – universities as well as leadership of both parties – to help our world-class student-athletes in Kentucky,” Gov. Beshear said Wednesday after signing legislation in the statehouse Rotunda.  “The Commonwealth of Kentucky will continue to recruit top athletes, and when student-athletes choose to come here to win titles and enjoy our outstanding collegiate environment, they know they have the same rights and opportunities as those in other states.  We all agree, for any athlete, their name, image and likeness is their own and no one else’s.”

Kentucky General Assembly members who sponsored the legislation voiced support for the Governor’s actions.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, expressed his support for compensating college athletes.

“If you want to sign an autograph and get paid for it, you can do it under this bill,” Sen. McGarvey said.  “Or if an NCAA video game is going to feature you or your image on it, they would be permitted to give you some kind of royalty or payment for that.”

Sen. McGarvey filed numerous measures in previous legislative sessions relating to name, image and likeness and said he is thrilled to see it cross the finish line.

“We’re not looking to damage or hurt college athletics or compromise the amateur aspect of the game,” Sen. McGarvey added.  “With Senate Bill 6, we can make sure that these players are being treated fairly and equitably for what they do.”

“As Coach Calipari said in his committee testimony, SB 6 is model legislation that other states or even the U.S. Congress should take an interest in,” said Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who sponsored the bill.  “SB 6 provides flexibility to allow our universities and our collegiate student-athletes to take full advantage of their NIL.”

Many university leaders, athletic coaches and student-athletes applauded Gov. Beshear’s action.

“Our state legislature passed the NIL bill as a bipartisan bill in our state, and it was nearly unanimous, which shows just how important this is for our student-athletes and our universities,” University of Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari said.  “I think people are going to read this bill from around the country and use it as model legislation the same way they did our executive order.  This is exactly what we needed, and I am so proud of our state and appreciative of our legislature, the governor and all of our leaders.”

“This is a huge win, not only for our student-athletes at the University of Louisville, but for the student-athletes at every university in the state of Kentucky.  Our student-athletes work extremely hard day in and day out, and this legislation now allows them to capitalize on opportunities from their name, image and likeness, which we fully support,” University of Louisville women’s basketball head coach Jeff Walz said.  “Many student-athletes also want to give back to the community, and this bill allows them to do even more of that.  I’m thankful to Gov. Beshear, Sens. Max Wise and Morgan McGarvey, and all of our leadership for understanding how important this legislation is and rightfully getting it passed.”

“Thank you Gov. Beshear for your foresight early in this process of pushing this model legislation forward,” Morehead State University President Dr. Jay Morgan said.  “SB 6 really sets forth student-athlete opportunities, and we’re proud of that.  All of us are in the student success business.  Thank you to everyone who included higher education in the development of this bill.”

“The Commonwealth of Kentucky has shown again today that it will be a torchbearer in the name, image and likeness era, continuing the student-athlete-first mindset that our program has been built on for years,” said Kyra Elzy, University of Kentucky women’s basketball head coach.  “I want to thank our state legislature, the governor and the administration at UK for working together to make student-athletes a priority in the state of Kentucky.  Today’s signing will have a historic impact on young women in this state today and for years to come.”

“I am so thankful to have decided to play collegiately in a state that has been on the forefront of making sure myself and other student-athletes across the state can benefit in this name, image and likeness era,” said Rhyne Howard, current University of Kentucky women’s basketball guard and 2022 SEC Tournament champion and most valuable player. “Today’s legislation will have an impact on young girls for years to come.  I appreciate our state legislature, the governor and administration at UK for working together to make an impact on so many.”

“This is an exciting day for college athletics in the state of Kentucky.  The University of Louisville owes a huge thank you to our legislators for passing, and our governor for signing into law, a bill that makes the state of Kentucky better,” said Josh Heird, University of Louisville Interim Director of Athletics.  “This law will enable every university in this state to compete at the highest level when it comes to attracting and retaining student-athletes.  The ability for our student-athletes to generate revenue from their name, image and likeness has been long overdue and UofL looks forward to helping our student-athletes maximize those opportunities.”

“Dealing with name-image-likeness issues is an ongoing process for our student-athletes and our schools,” University of Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops said.  “This legislation will help our student-athletes continue to maximize opportunities while giving our schools more flexibility in supporting and protecting our young people.  We are appreciative of Gov. Beshear and the legislature for their work on this.”

“I’m grateful to Gov. Beshear for his hard work in getting this legislation passed.  Name, image and likeness has changed the landscape of collegiate athletics in the last year and our student-athletes have benefitted tremendously from all the opportunities,” University of Louisville head football coach Scott Satterfield said.  “I’m thankful to the leadership in the commonwealth for understanding the importance of NIL and how greatly it impacts the well-being of our student-athletes and also allows us to compete on the same level with the rest of the schools across the country.”

“It’s a great day for college athletes and universities in the commonwealth,” University of Louisville women’s head volleyball coach Dani Busboom Kelly said.  “With this new NIL law, our team has a clear road to maximize their opportunities around name image likeness.  After a historic run last season I’m excited to see the opportunities our players will have and will have in the future.”

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA in a significant case that challenged the association’s ability to have national limits on benefits for athletes that are related to education, but more broadly the case has raised questions about the NCAA’s ability to limit benefits at all.

The NCAA Board of Governors has preliminarily approved changes to their eligibility rules that would allow such compensation, and the U.S. Congress has held hearings on creating a national standard for compensation.  However, until that happens, Kentucky colleges and universities would have faced a competitive disadvantage without the Governor’s executive order and Senate Bill 6.

Kentucky colleges and universities have been directed to provide education and other resources to assist students with financial literacy, time management and social media and brand management.  Additionally, colleges and universities will retain the flexibility to reasonably limit the time, dates and associations from which the student-athlete may earn compensation.