Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoes sweeping NIL bill

On3 imageby:Jeremy Crabtree04/27/23


Oklahoma’s transformative name, image and likeness bill has been vetoed by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

In an unexpected move that surprised a number of local political and national NIL observers, Stitt announced Thursday he was rejecting Senate Bill 840. The bill would have radically “leveled the playing field” for OklahomaOklahoma StateTulsa and other local colleges when recruiting and retaining student-athletes who also want to capitalize off NIL.

In early April, the Oklahoma House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bill. Then last week, the bill breezed through the Oklahoma Senate with a vote of 29-12.

Along with snubbing the NIL legislation, Stitt also vetoed 23 other bills. The governor said in a statement that he will “will continue to veto any and all legislation authorized by Senators who have not stood with the people of Oklahoma” and support his agenda to focus on tax cuts and education reform.

“Oklahomans elected me to advocate on their behalf and fight for the taxpayer,” Stitt’s statement said. “I take this responsibility seriously. So, I cannot, in good faith, allow another year to go by without cutting taxes and reforming education, both of which we can absolutely afford with our $1.2 billion surplus and over $6 billion in savings.

“Therefore, until the people of Oklahoma have a tax cut, until every teacher in the state gets the pay raise they deserve until parents get a tax credit to send their child to the school of their choice, I am vetoing this unrelated policy and will continue to veto any and all legislation authored by Senators who have not stood with the people of Oklahoma and supported this plan.”

Politics was focus of veto, not NIL

John Holden, an associate professor at Oklahoma State that specializes in the rights of student-athletes, told On3 he believes the governor’s decision wasn’t a vote against NIL reform. Holden believes it was simply a case of bad timing. But he also pointed out there could be enough votes for a veto override.

“The governor’s decision to veto all bills until he gets legislation to sign on his desk dealing with three of his key initiatives likely meant that the NIL legislation was a victim of timing and just happened to get caught up as part of a stack of 20 bills that were vetoed,” Holden said. “The Senate could vote to override the governor’s veto on the NIL bill. But we have not heard if they intend to do so yet.”

Oklahoma lawmakers say the current law puts the Sooners, Cowboys and other state athletic teams at a disadvantage. For instance, Oklahoma’s requirement that individuals representing athletes in NIL matters be attorneys or registered agents is deemed too limiting.

“Why am I passing this bill?” Rep. Jon Echols, who was SB 840’s sponsor in the House, said when arguing the legislation. “Because if we don’t, we need to go ahead and shut down OU and OSU athletics. Not passing this is tantamount to saying we no longer wish to compete on the collegiate level. It has gotten to that level. What we are doing is setting the same level playing field that everyone has to play on.”

Recently, neighboring Arkansas revamped its NIL law in mid-April to allow schools and fundraising foundations to source NIL deals for athletes. The Arkansas bill also gives all 501(c)(3) collectives, including athletics fundraising foundations, the right to enter into deals with athletes.

Texas legislators are also considering revamped legislation – House Bill 2804 –  that’s similar to what was passed in Arkansas and was on the table in Oklahoma. The Texas NIL reform bill was passed by the Texas House on Tuesday.

What’s in Oklahoma SB 840?

According to a revised bill summary recently published, some of SB 840’s biggest changes are:

  • SB 840 repeals the requirement that representation must be licensed or registered.
  • The bill prohibits a student from using a school’s logo to secure NIL compensation.
  • It allows a college or university to be compensated for the use of its logo or facilities in relation to NIL activities.
  • The bill allows a college to establish agreements with a third-party entity to facilitate NIL activities on its behalf. This part of the bill received a lot of attention after The 12th Man+ Fund was launched at Texas A&M in February. A&M and Arkansas are believed to be the first schools whose official booster organization also is directly fundraising for NIL opportunities for student-athletes.
  • SB 840 allows colleges to require student-athletes to take courses in contracts and financial literacy.
  • Additionally, the bill allows colleges and universities to adopt reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions to prevent a student’s NIL activities from interfering with team activities, school operations, and the use of school facilities.

Bill would provide protection from NIL violations

Most interestingly, though, legal experts say SB 840 also appears to provide cover for OU, OSU and TU from being punished by the NCAA for any NIL-related violations, including any committed by collectives that have been set up to support student-athletes through deal facilitation.

According to the bill: “A collegiate athletic association shall not and shall not authorize its member institutions to: Entertain a complaint, open an investigation, or take any other adverse action against a postsecondary institution for engaging in any activity protected in the Student Athlete Name, Image and Likeness Rights Act or for involvement in student-athlete name, image or likeness activities.”

Coaches and NCAA leaders say NIL sometimes disguises “pay-for-play” deals choreographed by collectives ahead of when student-athletes sign binding national letters of intent or before they enter the transfer portal. Per NCAA rules, boosters are not allowed to pay players directly or be part of the recruiting process, and the organization says it is actively investigating multiple bad actors in the NIL space.

1Oklahoma and Crimson and Cream are the primary collectives at OU. Pokes with a Purpose is the officially endorsed collective at OSU. Additionally, Hurricane Impact was recently launched at Tulsa.