COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio became the 18th state Monday to allow college athletes to earn money off their name, image and likeness after a GOP attempt to add a transgender sports ban to the bill forced the governor to issue an executive order.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, surrounded by university presidents and an ex-Ohio State University quarterback, signed an executive order that would bring Ohio up to speed with more than a dozen other states who now prevent universities or college athletic conferences from punishing athletes if they are compensated based on their sports performance.
“For Ohio to be competitive, we need to get this now,” DeWine said. “We need to let everyone know that Ohio is in the game. Ohio is going to stay in the game.”
About half of those states — including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas — will have their laws go into effect July 1. Ohio State University football coach Ryan Day lobbied heavily for the change, saying Ohio schools would be at a recruiting disadvantage without it.
State Sen. Niraj Antani, a suburban Dayton Republican, pushed this legislation through the Senate and onto the House floor Thursday where Republican lawmakers attached an amendment to the bipartisan bill targeting transgender female athletes.
The proposal, titled the Save Women’s Sports Act, would require schools and higher education institutions in the state to designate “separate single-sex teams and sports for each sex.”
In a rare Statehouse outburst, Democratic lawmakers pounded their desks and stood up in opposition as the bill’s sponsor, GOP state Rep. Jena Powell, introduced the amendment.
Supporters, like Powell, say the measures are necessary to maintain fairness and protect the integrity in women’s sports in Ohio, though lawmakers have yet to point to a single instance where this has been an issue in the state.
DeWine immediately criticized the ban on transgender girls. His executive order is a way to work around the Legislature to ensure the athletic compensation issue takes place without getting tied up in the politics of the transgender ban.
Despite that, Antani said he would work to get his version of the bill through by the July 1 deadline to make sure Ohio is competitive with the other big college sports states that will be competing from the same athletic pool of candidates.
Such compensation could involve anything from a book-signing at a bookstore to a deal with a local restaurant. Exceptions include sponsorships for marijuana, alcohol, tobacco and casinos, which are not permitted under the bill, Antani said.