Al Lawson takes aim at NCAA treatment of student athletes
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson Jr. parlayed a standout period as a college basketball player into an NBA stint, a coaching gig, and now a political career of long standing.
Lawson’s case represents the best-case scenario for student athletes, however, and a new bill from the second-term Democrat would bring change to an oft-criticized model.
The NCAA Act of 2019 would eliminate the “one-and-done” rule, provide medical coverage for sports-related injuries, and create an easier process for student athletes to gain work opportunities while in school.
The NBA’s one-and-done rule was aimed at keeping players from entering the draft right out of high school. Draft entrants now have to be at least 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft and one year removed from their high school graduation date. That has led to athletes playing one year of college basketball and being done.
If this bill sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The Congressman had a similar bill last Congress.
The one-and-done rule has been a “burden” on college programs’ recruitment budgets, Lawson posited in 2018.
“Eliminating this rule would allow college programs to further invest in student athletes who are truly interested in gaining a college education,” he said.
Lawson, it should be clear, seeks to reform and not demolish the NCAA model.
“With the millions of dollars that are going to these colleges, it is a disservice to these student athletes who aren’t financially benefitting from their talents. Students need access to more – whether it’s more work opportunities while in college or medical coverage. That is one of the reasons why I filed my NCAA Act of 2019,” Lawson said.
“I think now is the time to end this one-and-done rule and allow athletes the opportunity to go to the professional ranks and earn money for themselves and their families – not an institution. Some students come from low-income homes, so having the opportunity to work and make money in the league would move mountains for these athletes and their families,” Lawson added.
In his contemplation of the measure, Lawson sees a difference between revenue sports and the rest.
“Football and basketball are the major drivers behind the universities and they help the entire athletic programs. Other sports benefit from the revenue accrued by football and basketball. They also help the university with recruitment. And because of that,” Lawson said, “they should be treated differently in that regard.”
One illustrative example will be showcased at next weekend’s Final Four.
Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo, reports the Detroit News, has already drawn more than $200,000 in bonuses. Up to $400,000 is possible. His base salary is already north of $4 million.
Meanwhile, the family of hoopster Kenny Goins, who made the game-winning shot last weekend, is paying off loans for his education.
Lawson will spotlight the bill Tuesday evening in Washington D.C. at a screening of Student Athlete.
The event kicks off at 6 p.m. at U.S. Capitol Visitors Center – Orientation Theater North (CVC 249)
The 2018 documentary, produced by HBO Sports and LeBron James’ and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Entertainment, looks at the pressures faced by student athletes and their families.