Ohio State WR-turned-U.S. Congressman looking to craft federal NIL legislation

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This specific development in a story that’s threatening to overwhelm the on-field aspect of the 2019 college football season was a matter of when, not if.

As we have written multiple times over the past couple of days, a working group was formed by NCAA in May to deal with the name, image, and likeness (NIL) issue involving student-athletes, and the group is expected to release its findings later this month. It’s believed that at least a portion of the recommendations will revolve around federal involvement to help facilitate “a fair and level playing field” across the country instead of what The Association has described in the past as “a patchwork of different laws from different states.”

A major player in that 19-person working group is Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who held the job during the last two seasons that Anthony Gonzalez was a wide receiver for the Buckeyes.  Gonzalez, following a five-year NFL career, has gone on to a career in politics that included being elected to the United States House of Representatives from Ohio’s 16th District in 2018.

With California formally enacting a historic NIL legislation at the state level — which, beginning Jan. 1, 2023, guarantees student-athletes in the Golden State will have the right to market their name, image, and likeness without fear of recrimination from NCAA member institutions — and with myriad other schools heading down the same path, Gonzalez has confirmed to ESPN.com that he “is planning to propose a new national law to give college athletes the opportunity to make endorsement money.”

Gonzalez acknowledged that he has held what were described as informal conversations with Smith on the NIL issue, although the substance of those talks wasn’t divulged.  While Gonzalez believes it’s imperative “to do something quickly” at the federal level, he will wait to draft legislation until the working group, of which Smith is the co-chairperson along with Big East commissioner Val Ackerman, releases its recommendations to the NCAA’s board of governors in late October.

Perhaps most importantly, Gonzalez, a Republican, believes the legislation he ultimately crafts, which would supersede any state law on the books, will gain bipartisan support.

“There are a lot of people who are trying to get a piece of the athlete who do not have their best interest in mind and are out for nefarious means,” Gonzalez told ESPN.com when it comes to protecting student-athletes. “You can imagine a world where, if there were no guardrails in place, that it could get out of hand pretty quickly. That’s the lane you’re trying to carve. How do you do this to provide necessary and deserved benefits while not inviting a bigger problem alongside it?”