Anthony Gonzalez might be most remembered by a college football loving nation as a standout talent for the Ohio State Buckeyes, or even for his few years in the NFL, but the U.S. Representative is looking to make an impact on his former stomping grounds by way of his new profession.
Gonzalez, who is a Republican from Ohio, is going to propose a federal law to give student-athletes a chance to make money off their name, image and likeness.
Following the fallout of California SB 206 being signed earlier this week, more than 10 states have politicians drafting similar legislation. While the bill has gone through all proper channels to become state law in California, it doesn’t go into effect until 2023, giving the NCAA plenty of time to react to the situation.
However, as numerous states opening up the floodgates with similar ideas, the governing body of college sports would theoretically be forced to put out each fire state by state moving forward. This is especially true if the NCAA remains steadfast in its belief that SB 206, and other bills like it, would result in doomsday scenarios.
It’s partially why Gonzalez is looking to go national with this legislature immediately.
“I actually think that we need to do something quickly, within the next year,” Anthony Gonzalez told ESPN. “I don’t think you have three years to figure this out. I think decisions will start happening immediately.”
It apparently goes beyond that for the former Buckeyes talent, as he wants wording in any law to help protect student-athletes from those who aren’t around to have the players’ best interests in mind.
“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,” said Anthony Gonzalez. “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?”
Where things begin to get tricky is that Gonzalez would like to wait to see how the NCAA’s working group on the matter handles the situation first. At the end of October, with Gene Smith a member, the working group is going to present its findings on any NIL information to the NCAA.
“My plan is to wait on that,” Anthony Gonzalez said. “I trust Gene. I know he’s thoughtful in this. … I want to see that play out, and then he and I will have discussions on how we can solve the goals that we all have.”
As previously documented and noted by Smith himself, he’s firmly against SB 206.
“I’m a single vote in that,” Smith said, via USA Today, on the idea of the NCAA walking away from Pac-12 schools. “My guess is our membership would say yes because one of our principles is fair play, and even in the working group that I’m on, we’re focused on trying to make sure we deal with this in a fair-play way – as best as we can have a level playing field. We know it’s unlevel in a lot of ways, but this could make it unbelievably unlevel.”
That’s the man Gonzalez is waiting to build his policy around. Alas, perceptions hasn’t gotten a narrative-driven nature there yet, but we will in just a minute.
Here’s where optics will likely play an important part. With the majority of politicians pushing for major NCAA reform falling on the Democratic side, a Republican wanting federal legislature to provide student-athletes increased rights can be seen as a bipartisan victory, highlighting how outdated the governing body’s model is.
Counter to that, Gonzalez would like to work his policy around the NCAA working group’s findings, which can be viewed as aiding the organization in protecting itself from the aforementioned state-by-state fire scenario.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, is on the record stating he attempted to find out just how far the NCAA was looking into potential name, imagine and likeness resolutions ahead of SB 206, only to be rebuffed.
“They talked about how they wanted to voluntarily engage us,” Newsom recently said in regards to interactions with NCAA president Mark Emmert. “Well, they slow-rolled us. And, with respect, they consistently play around the edges of reform. Now, they can’t do that. I think, ultimately, this is going to force their hand. I think invariably, they’re going to have (to) make some significant concessions to the status quo … and while the threat of litigation may overhang, I think reforms are going to be forthcoming despite how stubborn the next year or two may be.”
Cynically, given just how much Newsom was apparently led astray, all while Gonzalez is waiting on the NCAA’s working group to help build policy, this could be a surface-level play, with some’s protection of the NCAA taking a brand new form.
Editor’s note: This column originally appeared on Forbes. It’s republished under terms of the publisher-author agreement under the author’s name.
Joseph Nardone has been covering college basketball for nearly a decade for various outlets in a variety of ways. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.