2020 election pivotal to future of NCAA, college sports reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mark Walker is a big sports fan. As an Alabama native, he still roots for the Crimson Tide, and as a U.S. Congressman representing North Carolina, he’s enamored with March Madness.

So any time he can create sports analogies for legislative issues, Walker doesn’t miss the opportunity. When the legislative issue being discussed is connected to sports itself, such as the emerging Congressional debate over athlete compensation, he is in his sweet spot.

“We moved the ball down the field and right when we got into the red zone,” Walker says, “the coronavirus defense recovered a fumble.”

As the one-year anniversary approaches of Congress’s involvement in college athletics—the NCAA first approached lawmakers for help last December—the topic of name, image and likeness (NIL) remains somewhat shelved. Once thought of as a bipartisan issue that could be expedited through a slow-moving body, NIL finds itself stuck in a bureaucratic waiting line, buried behind more significant issues like COVID-19.

And what of its bipartisan nature? While it generates more broad support than most issues, NIL bipartisanship is quickly eroding, the gap between Democrats and Republicans growing from a stream to a gulf.

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