Gov. Pritzker signs Illinois student-athlete compensation bill at U of I

Tuesday, June 29, 2021
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Governor JB Pritzker signed a bill Tuesday that will allow student athletes to make money off their celebrity, beginning a new day in Illinois college athletics.

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- With the stroke of a pen, the future of college athletics in Illinois took a dramatic turn for the better for student athletes.

Governor JB Pritzker signed a bill Tuesday that will allow them to make money off their celebrity, beginning a new day in Illinois college athletics.

Illinois is becoming one of a handful of states to now allow student athletes, regardless of their sport or their division, to hire agents and sign endorsement deals.

Effective July 1, student athletes across Illinois will be able to capitalize on their image and likeness and profit from it, whether they are the big-time stars or the lesser-known athletes, like Northwestern defensive lineman Joe Spivak.

"Everyone's gonna have awesome opportunities to maybe give back to their own communities, you know, obviously you can support your local businesses, and giving them business but now this could give us an opportunity to maybe endorse them and be a sponsor and really shed more light on them through social media or whatever it may be," Spivak said.

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Pritzker signed the landmark legislation into law, calling it a statewide celebration.

"This isn't just a win for our student athletes, it's a win for the future of our entire state," Pritzker said

The bill's sponsor, a former U of I football player saying it's about fairness for the young people who make college athletics a billion dollar industry, but until now have had no share in the income.

"This bill is long overdue. And what we are signaling here is we cannot continue to economically suppress these young people while they infuse tremendous amounts of money onto our economies," said State Rep Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, Bill Sponsor.

The new law is also seen as a potential recruiting tool for Illinois universities.

"We do look at this as a tool obviously to keep our premiere prep athletes in Illinois," Buckner said.

Universities like Northwestern and DePaul have already launched programs to help students navigate this new opportunity.

"It's gonna take some time to manage and figure out, but just keep my priorities straight and not letting this take over football or school in terms of priorities and time," said Peter Skoronski, Northwestern football player.

Sports attorney Sivonnia DeBarros said student athletes need to be careful when signing contracts.

"Because at the end of the day this whole process - name, image and likeness - is for the benefit of the student athlete. You don't want to end up running afoul where it basically deters what the whole point of the matter was in the first place," DeBarros said.

At this point, allowing student athletes to profit from their fame has been done at a state by state level, but the NCAA is expected to vote Wednesday on a plan that would make endorsements legal across college athletics.