Kansas governor denounces effort to tie college athlete compensation to transgender athlete ban

Topeka — After Kansas legislators tried to tie a ban on transgender athletes in school sports to legislation that would let college athletes seek endorsement deals, Gov. Laura Kelly blasted the move and called the measures “totally unrelated.”

The transgender athletes ban, Senate Bill 55, would have prevented transgender athletes from playing in girls and women’s sports at the K-12 and college levels. The measure stalled in the Senate, where an effort to override the governor’s veto fell one vote shy of the required two-thirds majority.

Meanwhile, the so-called name, image and likeness, or NIL, compensation bill would allow athletes at Kansas colleges and universities to sign with an agent and seek compensation through endorsement deals once they were at the institution. The measure is coveted by athletic officials and coaches at the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and other schools as a necessary step to ensure the state is on an even playing field with the schools in Florida and California, states that already passed similar legislation.

However, Senate President Ty Masterson said he would not take up the NIL bill without reconsidering the transgender athletes ban, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

“The two are completely and totally unrelated,” Kelly said Thursday. “If they’re going to come again to the Legislature, they ought to come clean.”

The proposed trade-off could reappear later this month when the Legislature reconvenes for “sine die,” traditionally a ceremonial conclusion to the session. A spokesperson for Masterson confirmed he views the bills as interrelated.

Republican leaders in both the House and Senate were unmoved by statements from the NCAA threatening to move events from states that pass these transgender athlete bans.

“This year the NCAA threw its weight around on the issue of fairness in women’s sports by opposing a bill to ensure a level playing field for girls and women,” said House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. “Now they oppose the name image and likeness bill that would help fix the unfair system that keeps college athletes from having any portion of the money when others use their names or images for profit. I see no reason to let the NCAA and unfairness win a second time this session.”


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