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US Congressman to introduce legislation allowing athletes to profit from name, image, likeness

Remember when we wrote that pay-for-play is a grass fire the NCAA can't contain, yesterday?

Five states -- Nevada, Minnesota, Florida, Pennsylvania, Kentucky -- saw lawmakers announce plans for copycat legislation to California's Fair Pay to Play Act within 48 hours of California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing it into law on Monday morning.

As of this writing on Wednesday, no more states have jumped on board, but an even bigger fish has splashed its way into this pond. (Update: Nevermind. Ohio has now joined the fray.)

Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, a Republican who represents Ohio's 16th district, on Wednesday announced his plan to bring a name, image, likeness (NIL) bill to Washington.

"I actually think that we need to do something quickly, within the next year," Gonzalez told ESPN. "I don't think you have three years to figure this out. I think decisions will start happening immediately."

If that name rings a bell, it should. Gonzalez played wide receiver for Ohio State from 2004-06 and spent five seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

Gonzalez's effort will join existing plans by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Representative Mark Walker (R-NC) to dismantle the NCAA's amateurism system as we know it.

Gonzalez's push will differ from his two colleagues in important ways. First, obviously, he's a former big-time college athlete who has an open dialogue with Ohio State AD Gene Smith, co-chair of the NCAA's NIL working group and someone who's said he's against California's Fair Pay to Play Act. Because of that, Gonzalez will not introduce legislation until after Smith and his working group present their recommendation to the NCAA on Oct. 29.

Second, rather than make his argument on moral grounds as Murphy and Walker did, Gonzalez is branding his bill as an effort to protect athletes.

"There are a lot of people who are trying to get a piece of the athlete who do not have their best interest in mind and are out for nefarious means," said Gonzalez. "You can imagine a world where, if there were no guardrails in place, that it could get out of hand pretty quickly. That's the lane you're trying to carve. How do you do this to provide necessary and deserved benefits while not inviting a bigger problem alongside it?"

Because of Gonzalez's relationship with Smith, the NCAA could end up working to help his bill pass through Congress rather than lobby against it, because the NCAA would much rather deal with one, national devil it knows than 50 separate, state-by-state devils it doesn't know.

And, to be clear because we can't reiterate this enough: one Congressman announcing plans to introduce a bill is a long, long way from that bill becoming law from sea to shining sea. But that may be missing the point. We've seen so much action this week alone that the threat of a law could be enough to spur the NCAA to action on its own.