Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf speaking with (from left) Penn State student-athletes Jahan Dotson and Anna Camden and Penn State University President Eric Barron at a press conference to celebrate legislation that gave student-athletes rights to their name, image, and likeness. (Commonwealth Media Services photo).
It’s a “new era” for college sports, and it’s one Anna Camden is eager to be a part of because there’s a fair playing field — not on the court, but among Pennsylvania college students and student-athletes.
Camden, a rising junior and Penn State women’s basketball player, has a prominent social media following and growing podcast, “Courtside with Camden.” And thanks to new legislation approved alongside this year’s state budget, she — along with other Pennsylvania collegiate athletes — will be able to profit off her name, likeness, and image. Collectively, they’re referred to as “NIL rights.”
Though they’ll still be unable to be paid directly by their programs, student-athletes are now able to receive royalties from companies that sell college athletics merchandise and sign with an agent to pursue endorsements without fear of reprisals.
“Before now, any other student on any other scholarship could capitalize on their name, image, and likeness, and now the field has been leveled,” Camden told reporters during a Monday press conference at Penn State University’s Beaver Stadium.“I’m incredibly grateful, excited for the future, and above all, inspired — inspired by what I’ve already seen this past week and for what I know is to come.”
Camden was one of the first student-athletes to take advantage of the opportunity, recently announcing a partnership with Cameo, a video-sharing platform. She’s one of almost a dozen Happy Valley athletes to announce similar partnerships with even more statewide.
Penn State President Eric Barron, who’s entering his final year at the university, called the legislation a “win-win.” He said that NIL rights are “necessary, reasonable, and fair,” adding that they will “protect the integrity of the game and provide our student-athletes with much-deserved opportunities to financially benefit from their hard work.”
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, Senate Education Committee Chairman Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, and Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, joined Camden and Penn State officials to celebrate the reform.
The hot-button issue — whether student-athletes should be compensated for participating in sports while being full-time students and generating millions of dollars for their schools’ athletic programs — has escalated to a national level.
The new legislation makes Pennsylvania the 25th state to give student-athletes NIL rights.
And while the change in Pennsylvania still bars student-athletes from being paid directly by their programs, it presents a new opportunity to further athlete development and entrepreneurial skills, lawmakers and college officials argue.
“This is a great day because we’re recognizing our athletes, our student-athletes,” Gainey said. “Do you know how that boosts morale? To know now that you can be compensated for things that you couldn’t be compensated for in the past?”
Wolf and Corman — who joked about their frequent disagreements over legislation — said giving student-athletes the rights to their name, image, and likeness made sense. Wolf added that it will help ensure Pennsylvania colleges and universities “remain competitive and attractive.”
Wolf added that it will give top athletes a “guarantee that they will be treated fairly in Pennsylvania.”
“To say you have to wait and declare to be a professional before you even get professional advice just doesn’t make any sense,” Corman said. “To have this type of advice from a lawyer, from an agent, whoever it might be, early on before you make these decisions, and maybe lose your eligibility, is so very important.”
He added: “We keep calling them student-athletes. They should be students like other students. They should be able to control their likeness, control their name, be able to get professional advice as they move forward in their career.”
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