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Battle to pay Washington’s student-athletes is far from over

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, the NCAA’s board of governors took a monumental step forward toward allowing student-athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness. Even so, one Washington state representative warns that the fight is far from over.

Push to pay NCAA athletes in Washington crosses political lines

“It’s a huge step forward,” said Republican state Rep. Drew Stokesbary. “On the other hand, when you look closely at their words, (the NCAA) gives themselves a lot of wiggle room.”

The decision from the NCAA board — while bold in its intent — doesn’t actually enact any changes. Rather, it merely commissions a working group to “immediately consider modernization of bylaws and policies.”

That group has until 2021 to come to a decision, with the NCAA making little in the way of promises down the road.

“Nothing that tangible happened, and given the long timeline and vagueness of the statement, it’s certainly possible the NCAA could walk it back entirely,” said Stokesbary.

To account for that, Rep. Stokesbary will continue to push forward with his plans to introduce a bill in the state Legislature next January, allowing Washington’s student-athletes to pursue paid sponsorships and retain an agent.

He notes that any such legislation would likely run concurrently with the NCAA’s timeline, making it so nothing is enacted unless it’s abundantly clear that the working group is moving in the wrong direction.

In the meantime, he sees the bill as a necessity to keep the NCAA on task as it weighs its options.

“The NCAA is only reacting to pressure from the states, and if we want true reform, I think we need to keep the pressure up from the states as much as possible,” said Stokesbary.

Washington state rep: NCAA ‘like a cartel,’ needs to pay athletes

A similar bill recently approved in California goes into effect in 2023.

In the meantime, Stokesbary remains hopeful for the future of Washington’s student-athletes.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “Even a couple weeks ago, nobody would have thought that the NCAA would take an action like this.”

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