(CBS) Cory Booker thinks college athletes are being exploited, and he has some ideas to remedy the problem. The Democratic presidential contender and New Jersey senator released a plan that would enable college student athletes to profit from endorsement deals. He’s also championing pay equity for female athletes.
The plan would create a commission on integrity in sports that would be tasked with evaluating ways to improve the economic justice and the health and safety standards of student athletes. Student athletes would also be able to unionize under his plan.
“For too long, we have allowed exploitative practices in professional and college sports to fester — somehow treating sports as different from our broader economy,” Booker said in a statement. “But sports at these levels is a multi-billion dollar business. Just as we shouldn’t accept collusion, wage theft, and a massive gender pay gap in any other industry, we shouldn’t accept them in sports.”
In a press release, Booker praised California’s new law, just signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, that would allow student athletes in California to be compensated for endorsement deals. If elected, Booker, who played football at Stanford University, would press for federal legislation that would allow student athletes to make money from the use of their “name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights” and be able to hire an agent. In an interview with CBS News on Tuesday, Booker said he supported the California law and argued that the NCAA needs to be reformed.
“Are we pieces of meat when we play for those teams?” Booker said. “Or are we about scholarship, scholarship athletes and having pathways to degrees?”
A Booker administration would require the Education Department to report data on the educational outcomes and the health and safety of student athletes. The department would develop a report based on the data, come up with reforms and publish its findings.
Booker’s plan also details proposals to improve gender equity in sports and to close the pay disparity between male and female athletes. The plan cites the pay gap between the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams. Earlier this year, Booker and other senators sent a letter to the U.S. Soccer Federation protesting the pay disparity. Booker says if he’s elected president, he’ll sign the Athletics Fair Pay Act into law, which calls for fair and equal pay for female athletes.
NBA dancers and NFL cheerleaders would also have labor protections under the plan. Booker’s plan cited the dancers and cheerleaders will have the right to organize and have the right to a minimum wage. Last year, five former NFL cheerleaders sued the Houston Texans claiming that they were not fully compensated by the team.