Beshear says student-athletes in Kentucky can now profit from their name, image, and likeness

Governor signed executive order after consulting with leadership of the General Assembly

After talking with higher education and legislative leaders in the commonwealth, Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order on Thursday allowing student-athletes in Kentucky to receive fair compensation for the use of their name, image, and likeness.

Gov. Beshear is the first governor to allow compensation for name, image, and likeness by executive order.

“Today’s step was done in cooperation with all of our public universities as well as leadership of both parties,” said Gov. Beshear after signing the executive order Thursday at the Capitol. “This action ensures we are not at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting, and also that our student-athletes have the same rights and opportunities as those in other states. For any individual athlete, their name, image and likeness are their own and no one else’s.”

The commonwealth’s public universities applauded Gov. Beshear’s executive order.

“On behalf of our student-athletes at the University of Louisville, we are incredibly grateful for Gov. Beshear’s executive order allowing them to earn compensation based on their name, image, and likeness,” said University of Louisville Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Vince Tyra. “Bringing the state of Kentucky into competitive balance with other states across the country and, more specifically, the Atlantic Coast Conference is critical. The collaboration with legislative leadership in Frankfort is welcome and needed in leveling the playing field for our institutions and, more important, for our student-athletes.”

“Today’s executive order from the Governor provides us the flexibility we need at this time to further develop policies around name, image, and likeness (NIL),” said University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart. “We are appreciative of that support as it is a bridge until such time as state and/or federal laws are enacted. The landscape of college sports is now in the midst of dramatic and historic change – perhaps the biggest set of shifts and changes since scholarships were first awarded decades ago. What won’t change is our core and most important principle – the well-being and development of our student-athletes, while they are at UK and, as importantly, in preparing them for success in life, on whatever path they choose. We are extremely well-positioned to help our student-athletes navigate this new and complex terrain. Much of what we need to do to support students in terms of NIL – through The Kentucky Road initiative – has been in place for some time. We have a strong foundation, which we will now work to build on.”

“First, we would like to thank Gov. Beshear for his leadership on this emerging and very important issue affecting higher education,” said President Robert L. (Bob) Jackson of Murray State University. “This executive order will help maintain consistency across intercollegiate athletics by ensuring that rules regarding name, image, and likeness are fairly applied to our universities and student-athletes. We believe our student-athletes will benefit from this executive order which provides much-needed direction for our university athletic programs here in the commonwealth.”

Leadership in the Kentucky General Assembly voiced support for the executive action, noting their intent to deal with the topic in the 2022 regular session.

“This has long been an issue of fairness for student-athletes, but last week’s Supreme Court ruling also places our universities at a competitive disadvantage as other states move forward,” House Speaker David Osborne added. “These temporary steps address the immediate need, while we continue working with universities and other stakeholders to craft comprehensive legislation for the 2022 regular session.”

“We’ve been working for two years in the legislature with Democrats and Republicans to give our student-athletes control over their name, image and likeness,” said Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey. “We can’t fall behind. I’m glad the Governor is stepping up to make sure Kentucky’s student-athletes have the same opportunities here that they would in other states, and Sen. Max Wise, Sen. Whitney Westerfield and I remain committed to making sure protections like those in the Governor’s executive order become part of our law as soon as possible.”

“This is a landmark day for college athletics in Kentucky, and I am proud to stand with Gov. Beshear, Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, and many others in supporting this executive order,” said House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins. “This change will make sure Kentucky’s student-athletes are fairly rewarded for their hard work while making sure they are not treated any differently than their counterparts in other states. The goal going forward is to make sure this executive order becomes law next year because it’s time we take this permanent step.”

The following university coaches applauded the action.

“We are entering into an exciting age in college athletics,” University of Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari said. “At the University of Kentucky, we have always put student-athletes first and today’s executive order by Gov. Beshear – who I want to thank for making this a priority – will empower universities across the state to support their young men and women better than ever. Whether we are talking about name, image, and likeness, lifetime scholarships, financial literacy, health, and wellness, or player welfare, student-athletes have been at the center of every decision at Kentucky. With today’s announcement, we continue to take positive steps forward in supporting our student-athletes to an even greater degree statewide. They deserve our time, effort, and resources in making sure they have the opportunities to benefit from the hard work they put into their athletic and educational careers. As we wait on federal legislation, our program will continue to support, elevate and educate our kids.”

“I appreciate Gov. Beshear stepping up and making student-athletes in the state of Kentucky a priority,” said Kyra Elzy, University of Kentucky women’s basketball head coach. “The University of Kentucky has been a leader in name, image, and likeness. I know our administration will work with the Governor’s office to ensure that student-athletes in Kentucky will continue to take the necessary steps to stay atop of NIL issues.”

“Supporting our student-athletes is at the center of Kentucky Athletics and today’s announcement is another step in that direction,” said University of Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops. “Name, image, and likeness issues are at the forefront of college athletics and we appreciate Gov. Beshear helping us address current needs while long-term solutions are being developed on the national level. Our established principles of educational excellence, athletic success, and personal development have us well-positioned as the NIL process begins.”

“I’m very appreciative that Gov. Beshear worked so quickly putting together an executive order allowing our student-athletes to earn additional compensation for use of their name, image, and likeness,” said University of Louisville head football coach Scott Satterfield. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity for our players moving forward and I know they are grateful for everyone coming together to make this a reality.”

“We applaud Gov. Beshear on this ground-breaking decision,” said University of Louisville women’s basketball head coach Jeff Walz. “This is the right thing to do. This allows our student-athletes to enhance their profile in the profession of their choice. This is about opportunity, and we are all for it.”

“I’m all for student-athletes maximizing their opportunity as students, as athletes, and as earners of income,” University of Louisville men’s basketball head coach Chris Mack said. “Thankful that our state and Gov. Beshear feel this way as well. Name, image, and likeness rights have become a reality for our student-athletes today and that’s a good thing in my eyes.”

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA in a significant case that challenged the association’s ability to have national limits on benefits for athletes that are related to education, but more broadly the case has raised questions about the NCAA’s ability to limit benefits at all.

Nineteen states have passed legislation to allow such compensation for student-athletes. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas enacted laws that will take effect July 1, 2021. The NCAA Board of Governors has preliminarily approved changes to their eligibility rules that would allow such compensation, and the U.S. Congress has held hearings on creating a national standard for compensation. However, until that happens, Kentucky colleges and universities would have faced a competitive disadvantage as other states’ legislation becomes effective as soon as July 1, 2021.

Kentucky colleges and universities have been directed to provide education and other resources to assist students with financial literacy, time management and social media, and brand management. Additionally, colleges and universities will retain the flexibility to reasonably limit the time, dates, and associations from which the student-athlete may earn compensation.