By KEVIN DERBY
Now in his second term, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., continues to concentrate on college student athletes, calling for a new congressional body to “focus on the well-being and rights of our nation’s student-athletes.”
Lawson, who lettered in basketball and ran track during his undergrauate career at Florida A&M University, called on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to create a Select Committee on Student-Athletes.
“Student-athletes are the backbone of any athletic program and give so much of themselves and their talents to their schools,” Lawson wrote Pelosi. “As members of Congress, we must work to protect the interests of our students academically, medically and professionally.”
Lawson called on the proposed select committee to “focus on the ‘one-and-done’ rule, the definition of ‘amateur,’ and guaranteeing that student-athletes and former student-athletes have a path to completing their degrees.”
The North Florida Democrat weighed in on his letter to Pelosi on Friday.
“College athletes and their families deserve respect and fair legislation that protect their rights,” Lawson said. “While there are many layers to the pressures and responsibilities student-athletes face, creating a select committee like this, with as many voices as possible, is the first step in truly supporting our young men and women.”
Last month, Lawson hosted a forum on the “State of the Black Student Athlete in America” during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) in Washington DC. Lawson, who played and coached college basketball, hosted the forum to “examine the pressures and economic responsibilities black student athletes face, whether students are being prepared academically for life outside of sports, potential inequities between historically black institutions and other colleges, mental health awareness, the role of social activism and what happens after the game is over.
“College athletics is a multi-billion dollar business, and oftentimes, a black student-athletes as the face for an institution where he or she may not otherwise have access,” Lawson said when he announced the forum last month. “These young men and women are essential to the revenue generated by college athletic programs. That is why it is vital that we have conversations like these, with as many voices as possible – students, coaches, administrators, policymakers, if we truly want to see positive change.”
Back in April, Lawson hosted a panel discussion and screened a documentary on Capitol Hill which focused on “the plight of unpaid student-athletes in a multi-billion-dollar athletic enterprise.”
Also that month, Lawson brought out the “NCAA Act” which “would eliminate the ‘one and done’ rule, provide medical coverage for sports-related injuries, and create an easier process for student athletes to gain work opportunities while in school.” Lawson reeled in nine cosponsors including Democrat U.S. Reps. Alexandria Octavia-Cortez of New York, Ihan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. Lawson’s proposal was sent to the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee where it has lingered since April. So far, there is no companion bill over in the U.S. Senate.