Student-athletes bill sent along to governor

A bill allowing college athletes to be compensated for use of their names, images and likenesses was sent to Arkansas' governor Tuesday.

House Bill 1671 by House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, was passed by the Senate in a 34-1 vote. It now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who said in a written statement Tuesday that he is supportive of the bill and will sign it.

HB1671, officially titled the "Arkansas Student-Athlete Publicity Rights Act," will allow athletes at the state's colleges and universities to enter into advertising contracts and be compensated for the commercial use of their publicity rights.

Proponents of the bill, which include top athletic officials and coaches at the state's largest universities, said allowing student athletes that opportunity could be an advantage in recruiting.

Six states have passed similar legislation.

"We're not going to put our student athletes at a disadvantage," sponsor Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, said.

Co-sponsor Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, pointed out that students who aren't college athletes are able to make money from their names and images by modeling or blogging.

Student athletes wouldn't be paid for athletic performance or playing time, and they wouldn't be able to make money from the use of their schools' names, logos or mascots.

The bill bars athletes from advertising any product or service that is prohibited in competition by the athletic conference, as well as anything to do with adult entertainment, alcohol, gambling, tobacco, marijuana, vaping, pharmaceuticals, controlled substances, drug paraphernalia and weapons.

Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, said he didn't like the provisions restricting athletes from using the school's logo and from advertising guns, but felt the bill was "a good common-sense, free-market approach."

Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville, was the only senator to vote against the legislation.

The measure had broad support in the House, passing in a 97-1 vote. Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, voted no, and Rep. Mike Holcomb, R-Pine Bluff, and Shepherd didn't vote.