Arkansas bill calls for studying prospects of allowing high school athletes to receive compensation for likeness

Rep. R.J. Hawk, R-Bryant, speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the Arkansas state Capitol in this March 14, 2023 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)
Rep. R.J. Hawk, R-Bryant, speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the Arkansas state Capitol in this March 14, 2023 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)

An Arkansas lawmaker filed a bill Friday to study the prospects of allowing high school athletes the right to receive compensation for their likeness.

Rep. R.J. Hawk, R-Bryant, filed House Bill 1679 to have lawmakers meet to discuss and study the issue when they are out of session. Currently, the Arkansas Activities Association, the regulatory body for high school athletics, does not allow student-athletes to receive compensation for their name, image or likeness.

If passed, the House and Senate education committees would be tasked with whether high school students should be able to receive compensation for their publicity rights. Lawmakers would have to file a written report by Oct. 31, 2024, on their findings, according to the bill.

Hawk said Arkansas needs to adapt to a changing landscape in high school and college sports, noting that student-athletes in many states can be compensated for their publicity rights. The first-term lawmaker pointed to neighboring states Tennessee and Louisiana, which allow high school athletes to sign paid sponsorship deals, as examples for Arkansas to potentially follow.

Hawk said the House and Senate education committees will likely get input from the Arkansas Activities Association, school administrators and coaches for their views of how the rules of amateurism should change.

[DOCUMENT: Read the bill that would authorize the study » arkansasonline.com/318hb1679/]

Hawk said the question is not about if, but rather about when high school students can start signing sponsorship deals.

"To tell a person -- whether it be a kid, be a parent, be whoever -- that they can't make money doing something they are good at, I have a problem with that," he said.

The bill is a companion to legislation filed Thursday by House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, who proposed allowing high school athletes who have been accepted to a college or have signed a written agreement to attend one, be eligible to profit off their name, image and likeness.

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

During the last regular legislative session in 2021, the General Assembly passed the Arkansas Student-Athlete Publicity Rights Act to allow college athletes to make money off their likeness.

Months later, the NCAA overturned its policy banning student-athletes from signing paid sponsorship deals.