Gov. Andy Beshear has signed an executive order allowing student-athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness.
The move will allow players to profit off endorsements, sponsorships, appearances and other ventures. It comes amid increased pressure on lawmakers across the country and the NCAA to allow student-athletes to receive fair compensation.
Beshear said he arrived at the decision after talking to the state’s university and political leaders.
“This action ensures we are not at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting, and also that our student-athletes have the same rights and opportunities as those in other states. For any individual athlete, their name, image and likeness are their own and no one else’s,” Beshear said.
So far, 19 states have passed legislation allowing students to be paid for their name, image and likeness, or NIL. Kentucky is the first state to enact the policy by executive order.
The NCAA’s governing body recently approved preliminary changes to its rules that allow students to be compensated, and Congress has been considering federal legislation on the issue.
Leaders of Kentucky’s public universities issued statements supporting the governor’s move.
University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said the executive order provides flexibility while a national solution is debated.
“The landscape of college sports is now in the midst of dramatic and historic change – perhaps the biggest set of shifts and changes since scholarships were first awarded decades ago. What won’t change is our core and most important principle – the well-being and development of our student-athletes while they are at UK and, as importantly, in preparing them for success in life, on whatever path they choose,” Barnhart wrote.
College athletics is a multi-billion-dollar industry, but it has been slow to allow players to receive financial compensation. In 2019, the NCAA reported total revenue collected by all NCAA athletics departments exceeded $18.9 billion.
University of Louisville Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Vince Tyra said the school is “grateful” for the governor’s order because it will allow U of L to compete with other schools recruiting athletes.
“Bringing the state of Kentucky into competitive balance with other states across the country and, more specifically, the Atlantic Coast Conference is critical. The collaboration with legislative leadership in Frankfort is welcome and needed in leveling the playing field for our institutions and, more important, for our student-athletes,” Tyra wrote in a statement.
Kentucky’s political leaders also weighed in.
House Speaker David Osborne, a Republican, said the legislature will likely consider NIL legislation next year.
“This has long been an issue of fairness for student-athletes, but last week’s Supreme Court ruling also places our universities at a competitive disadvantage as other states move forward,” Osborne said in a statement. “These temporary steps address the immediate need, while we continue working with universities and other stakeholders to craft comprehensive legislation for the 2022 regular session.”
In 2019, Louisville Democratic Sen. Morgan McGarvey filed a bill that would have allowed student athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness, but it was never considered by the Republican-led legislature.
On Thursday, McGarvey said he is committed to supporting the measure in the future.
“We can’t fall behind. I’m glad the governor is stepping up to make sure Kentucky’s student-athletes have the same opportunities here that they would in other states,” McGarvey said in a statement.
The new policy will go into effect July 1.