A Tennessee state senator is looking to allow college athletes to profit from their chosen sports.
State senator Brian Kelsey announced Tuesday that he plans to add language to a proposed bill that will allow collegiate athletes to earn money while playing for their universities.
While other bills have been proposed in different states -- with one signed into law earlier this year in California -- compensation for student-athletes has been brought into focus in Tennessee after the NCAA ruled University of Memphis basketball stare James Wiseman ineligible to play last week.
The announcement regarding Wiseman came hours before the freshman center was part of the Tigers' starting lineup against the University of Illinois at Chicago. The ruling by the NCAA overturned a previous decision in May that declared the former No. 1 recruit eligible to play for Memphis.
However, Memphis flouted the NCAA's reverse ruling by obtaining a restraining order on the decision from Shelby County Chancery Court judge Jim Kyle and kept Wiseman in the lineup. The center finished the game with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks.
The NCAA has ruled Memphis F/C James Wiseman -- the possible No. 1 overall pick in 2020 NBA Draft -- ineligible, his lawyers said in Memphis.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 8, 2019
Wiseman's history with Memphis men's basketball coach Penny Hardaway is at the center of the issue. During his high school career, Wiseman played for Hardaway's Team Penny on the AAU circuit and during his junior season transferred from his high school in Nashville to Memphis East High School where Hardaway served as the head boys' basketball coach. At the time of the move, Hardaway assisted Wiseman's family with relocation costs -- approximately $11,500.
A year later, Hardaway was announced as the head coach of the Memphis Tigers and in November 2018 Wiseman signed his letter of intent to play for Memphis.
Further complicating the issue, Hardaway, a Memphis alum, donated $1 million to the school in 2008, making him a booster. According to the NCAA, Hardaway was a booster for the university at the time he assisted Wiseman with moving expenses. Following Memphis' decision to play Wiseman, the NCAA released a statement to say that the freshman is "likely ineligible"
"The university chose to play him and ultimately is responsible for ensuring its student-athletes are eligible to play," the statement said.
Hardaway told media after the game that Wiseman will "continue to play" for the Tigers.
Fan and media response to Wiseman being abruptly ruled ineligible was swift on Friday, prompting Kelsey to post about the situation on Facebook.
"No Tennessee public university may discriminate against a college athlete based on a donation to the university by a coach," Kelsey wrote in his Facebook post. "We want to encourage our former players to donate to our public universities to help keep college tuition affordable."
"The Tennessee legislature supports our college athletes, our coaches and our state universities. If the NCAA doesn't correct this injustice by January we'll do it for them," Kelsey wrote.
According to a statement from October, Kelsey's bill is modeled after California's Fair Pay to Play Act that was recently signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom. The bill allows college athletes in the state to profit off of their name, image and likeness.
According to the statement, Tennessee state representative Antonio Parkinson plans to sponsor Kelsey's legislation.
"I want to remind everyone that state law trumps any rule that is created by the NCAA. Unfortunately those rules created by the NCAA are harmful to the student athletes who actually generate revenue in college sports," Parkinson said in a statement. "Lastly, if you remove the student athletes, the NCAA becomes nothing but a useless organization."
Wiseman is the second high-profile college athlete to be ruled ineligible by the NCAA in the past week. Ohio State defensive end Chase Young sat out the team's game on Saturday against Maryland after the school reported to the NCAA that he accepted a small loan from a family friend.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who accompanied Newsom on HBO's The Shop when the governor signed the Pay to Play bill, used Twitter to comment on the ongoing issues between Wiseman, Young and the NCAA.
ð¤ð¤¦ð¾ââï¸ See what Iâm saying now! They donât care about them kids at all. Only about how they can make them ð° ð´ ðµ https://t.co/EwBmHdK3YB— LeBron James (@KingJames) November 9, 2019
According to ESPN, a hearing on Wiseman's suit against the NCAA is set for November 18. Memphis is set to take on the Oregon Ducks on November 12 at 9 p.m. ET.