The UAMS ban bill applies to athletes

An Arkansas lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban state-funded medical schools from entering into paid sponsorship deals with student athletes.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ricky Hill, R-Cabot, said the legislation targets the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the state’s only public medical school, which uses Razorback athletes in advertisements.

“UAMS should be in the business of training our healthcare professionals and not be involved in the political aspect of paying athletes,” Hill said.

Senate Bill 456, introduced Wednesday, would target name, image and likeness deals, also known as NILs, that student-athletes could sign after the NCAA changed its policy to ban the practice in June 2021. If accepted, student-athletes would still be able to sign paid sponsorship deals, just not with UAMS.

UAMS Health, the medical school’s health division, has since run ads with the Hog, including basketball star Nick Smith Jr. and former Razorbacks player Jalen Catalan. In separate advertisements for UAMS Health, both athletes praised the school for helping them recover from their injuries.

Leslie Taylor, UAMS vice chancellor for communications and marketing, defended the school’s use of Razorback athletes as paid spokespeople, saying taxpayer dollars are not being used for advertisements. Taylor said UAMS Health spent $31,750 with 12 athletes.

“UAMS has not used NIL contracts for our College of Medicine. However, Razorback athletes were featured in an advertisement for our health system, UAMS Health, which is proud to be the official orthopedic and sports medicine provider for Razorback athletics,” Taylor said in a statement. “The athletes featured in the ad are just a few of those cared for by UAMS orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists who attend games, practices and work with athletes year-round.” In contrast to Hill’s legislation, lawmakers last week introduced a bill to extend the state’s Name, Image and Likeness Act to student athletes. The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-Eldorado, would allow high school athletes who have been accepted to a college or signed a letter of intent to attend college, the right to use their name, image and likeness.

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Shepherd said House Bill 1649 is an effort to keep Arkansas competitive in the highly competitive world of college recruiting. Twenty-six other states, including the District of Columbia, allow high school students to enter into sponsorship deals, according to College Sports Business.

State Rep. RJ Hawk, R-Bryant, also introduced a bill last week to study the feasibility of changing the amateur rules in high school sports so that high school athletes could benefit from their likenesses.

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