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With college athletes on cusp of revenue-sharing, there are Title IX questions that must be answered

Sport

With college athletes on cusp of revenue-sharing, there are Title IX questions that must be answered
Sport

Sport

With college athletes on cusp of revenue-sharing, there are Title IX questions that must be answered

2024-05-24 23:46 Last Updated At:23:50

The looming athlete pay system that will upend the traditional college sports model and still-to-be-determined details about how millions of dollars will be distributed are certain to bring questions about gender equity.

Of special interest will be whether schools must comply with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in any school or education program that receives federal funds.

There are many questions to be addressed should a $2.77 billion settlement of House vs. NCAA end up being approved by a federal judge in the months ahead after a key step forward by the NCAA and major conferences Thursday night. Among other things, the settlement is expected to allow the nation's wealthiest schools to spend approximately $20 million each year on their own athletes, beginning as soon as next year.

Michael LeRoy, a University of Illinois labor and sports law professor, and Iliana Konidaris, a New York civil rights attorney, said Title IX rules will apply if the schools are tasked with directing payments to athletes.

Konidaris said it will be critical for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to provide guidance on how revenue sharing and name, image and likeness compensation should be paid to keep schools in Title IX compliance.

“If the universities are going to end up exerting control over the revenue sharing,” Konidaris said, “you’re going to need to address pay equity very head-on.”

A New York sports attorney, Christina Stylianou, said her first instinct is that Title IX would not apply because athletes would be essentially selling their media rights to their school. That said, Stylianou expects the Title IX question to be heavily litigated.

The landmark 1972 law is intended to ensure equity between men and women in education. It applies to the classroom, sexual assault and violence on campus, employment, discrimination, admissions, financial assistance with tuition and of course athletics.

Women’s and men’s teams are to be treated equally under the law, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that each sport will have exactly the same budget for equipment, facilities, travel or meals. Athletic departments work under what is known as “equal in effect,” meaning a benefit for a men’s or women’s team in one area can be offset in another area as long as “the overall effects of any differences is negligible.”

LeRoy said he understands the rationale for arguing that football and men's basketball players should receive larger portions of the upcoming revenue because their sports account for nearly all the conference and NCAA broadcast rights fees.

If market value is heavily weighed when determining pay, he said, it would be a stretch to believe there would be a 50-50 split between male and female athletes. But, he said, there need to be provisions for women.

“I’m not making the argument it should be divided up equally,” LeRoy said. “By bringing it inside the athletic department, I don’t expect the distribution to be equal. But there is an inherent contradiction or problem if women get short-changed.”

LeRoy said the situation is reminiscent of the legal action taken by the U.S. women’s soccer national team for unequal pay compared with the U.S. men’s team. The women’s team prevailed in a settlement after initially claiming the U.S. Soccer Federation violated the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

Though college athletes are not yet considered employees, LeRoy and Konidaris said a legal argument could be made that direct school-to-athlete payments push athletes to the brink of being employees and that Title VII could apply.

“They’re going to have in the settlement the idea (that) this isn’t employment,” LeRoy said. “Then what you’re doing is saying a multibillion-dollar industry called NCAA Athletics is going to be treated differently than any other business in America. You cannot have separate pay.”

If the schools opt to not handle payments in-house and leave athlete compensation to booster-backed collectives eager to connect athletes and sponsorship money, that could be a way to get around Title IX regulations.

Hours after the NCAA settlement was announced, Oklahoma softball player Tiare Jennings was asked about the importance of the step. She pointed to post-college security for athletes.

“I think what they get when they leave college, just to have a foundation, have something for their future families, for themselves, just to have some security blanket when you leave college," she said. "Knowing that you can go invest or start a business, stuff like that, to just kick-start your life.”

Konidaris said schools that take care of their female athletes monetarily could develop stronger women's sports programs.

“The universities that really double down on equity in college sports will be rewarded by better programs for female athletes that I think in the coming 10 years are going to be revenue-generating, just based on public interest and momentum for women’s sport,” Konidaris said.

The recent surge in women's sports popularity, spawned by the star power of basketball players such as Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese and others, could not have been better timed, Konidaris said. Female athletes, she said, should view the moment as “an opportunity to be aggressive, to negotiate as hard as they possibly can to litigate and go after fairness and equity in pay.”

LeRoy agreed it is a pivotal moment for women's sports.

“The question,” he said, "is whether they're going to be stuck with a compensation model for the next 10 years that reflects the past, not the future?”

This version corrects Christina Stylianou's area of practice. Stylianou is a sports attorney, not a civil rights attorney.

AP Sports Writer Cliff Brunt contributed to this report.

AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

FILE - Members of the UConn women's rowing team rally about being cut by the university after the season, in Storrs, Conn., April 19, 2021. The looming athlete pay system that will upend the traditional college sports model and still-to-be-determined details about how millions of dollars will be distributed are certain to bring questions about gender equity. Of special interest will be whether schools must comply with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in any school or education program that receives federal funds. (Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant via AP, File)

FILE - Members of the UConn women's rowing team rally about being cut by the university after the season, in Storrs, Conn., April 19, 2021. The looming athlete pay system that will upend the traditional college sports model and still-to-be-determined details about how millions of dollars will be distributed are certain to bring questions about gender equity. Of special interest will be whether schools must comply with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in any school or education program that receives federal funds. (Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant via AP, File)

FILE - Southern California's McKenzie Forbes reacts after being presented the Pac-12 tournament Most Valuable Player trophy by Pac-12 Commissioner Teresa Gould after USC defeated Stanford in an NCAA college basketball game for the championship of the Pac-12 tournament March 10, 2024, in Las Vegas. The NCAA and the nation's five biggest conferences have agreed to pay nearly $2.8 billion to settle a host of antitrust claims,a monumental decision that sets the stage for a groundbreaking revenue-sharing model that could start directing millions of dollars directly to athletes as soon as the 2025 fall semester. (AP Photo/Ian Maule, File)

FILE - Southern California's McKenzie Forbes reacts after being presented the Pac-12 tournament Most Valuable Player trophy by Pac-12 Commissioner Teresa Gould after USC defeated Stanford in an NCAA college basketball game for the championship of the Pac-12 tournament March 10, 2024, in Las Vegas. The NCAA and the nation's five biggest conferences have agreed to pay nearly $2.8 billion to settle a host of antitrust claims,a monumental decision that sets the stage for a groundbreaking revenue-sharing model that could start directing millions of dollars directly to athletes as soon as the 2025 fall semester. (AP Photo/Ian Maule, File)

BARI, Italy (AP) — Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations turned their attention to artificial intelligence, economic security and migration on the second and final day of their summit Friday, as their delegations worked on a comprehensive joint communique touching on many of the world's major geopolitical and social challenges.

The gathering in a luxury resort in Italy’s southern Puglia region is also discussing other major topics, such as financial support for Ukraine, the war in Gaza, climate change, Iran, the situation in the Red Sea, gender equality as well as China’s industrial policy and economic security.

Some divisions have emerged, however, notably over the wording of the summit’s final declaration, with disagreement over the lack of a reference to abortion.

The second day opened with a session on migration, with the leaders discussing ways to combat trafficking and increase investment in countries from where migrants start out on often life-threatening journeys.

Migration is of particular interest to summit host Italy, which lies on one of the major routes into the European Union for people fleeing war and poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Right-wing Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, known for her hard-line stance on the issue, has been eager to increase investment and funding for African nations as a means of reducing migratory pressure on Europe.

Italy wants "to dedicate ample space to another continent that is fundamental to the future of all of us, which is Africa, with its difficulties, its opportunities,” Meloni said Thursday.

“Linked to Africa, and not only to Africa, there is another fundamental issue that Italy has placed at the center of the presidency, which is the issue of migration, the increasingly worrying role that trafficking organizations are assuming, clearly exploiting the desperation of human beings,” she said.

The G7 leaders said they would launch a “coalition” designed to counter migrant smuggling by boosting the investigative capacities of the countries of origin, transit and destination, according to a draft of the summit's final statement seen by The Associated Press.

The draft said the seven nations will take a three-pronged approach to migration, focusing on the root causes by enhancing development initiatives in countries of origin, bolstering border management and ensuring pathways for safe and regular migration.

The G7 will use a “follow the money” approach to crack organized crime rings involved in migrant smuggling and enhance cooperation on seizing criminal assets, the draft said.

Meloni has a controversial five-year deal with neighboring Albania for the Balkan country to host thousands of asylum-seekers while Italy processes their claims. She has also spearheaded the “Mattei Plan” for Africa, a continent-wide strategy to increase economic opportunities at home and so discourage migration to Europe.

More than 22,000 people have arrived in Italy by sea so far in 2024, according to UNHCR figures. In 2023, more than 157,000 arrived, and nearly 2,000 died or went missing while attempting the perilous Mediterranean crossing.

The United States has also been struggling with a growing number of migrants at its southern border. President Joe Biden introduced new policies to curb migration after a bill he tried to get through Congress failed to pass.

However, immigrant rights advocates filed lawsuits on Thursday over the new policies, and it is unclear whether they will be able to withstand the legal challenges in the U.S. courts.

Tackling migration “is a common challenge,” European Council President Charles Michel said Thursday. “This is the route that we intend, together with our partners, to put in place: this coalition to fight against the smugglers.”

Apart from the G7 nations of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S., the Italian hosts have also invited several African leaders — Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Kenyan President William Ruto and Tunisian President Kais Saied — to press Meloni’s migration and development initiatives.

Pope Francis also became the first pontiff to address a G7 summit, delivering a speech on artificial intelligence. Other invitees include Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The summit opened Thursday with a strong show of support for Kyiv: an agreement reached on a U.S. proposal to back a $50 billion loan to Ukraine using frozen Russian assets as collateral.

Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the freezing of Russian assets as “theft” and vowed it “will not go unpunished.”

Biden also signed a bilateral security agreement with Zelenskyy Thursday, aiming to send a signal to Russia of American resolve in supporting Kyiv.

But some cracks have appeared among the G7 leaders, notably French President Emmanuel Macron deploring a lack of a reference to abortion in the draft of the summit's final document.

The statement after last year’s summit in Hiroshima, Japan, expressed a commitment to provide access to safe and legal abortion to women and girls, and pledged to defend gender equality and the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The word “abortion” was not in the draft of this year's final communique seen by the AP, although a reference to promoting sexual and reproductive health rights was.

“It was not possible to reach agreement on these things in the room,” a senior EU official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to reveal details of the private discussions.

Asked on Thursday about reports that abortion would not be included in the final text, Macron said it was something he regretted. France “has included women’s right to abortion, the freedom of decision on one’s own body, into its Constitution,” he said, adding that France defends “this vision of equality between women and men.”

“It’s not a vision that’s shared across all the political spectrum,” Macron said, replying to a question from an Italian reporter. “I regret it, but I respect it because it was the sovereign choice of your people.”

Meloni, who campaigned on a “God, Family, Fatherland” motto, has denied she is rolling back rights to abortions, which have been legal in Italy since 1978. But the center-left opposition has warned that her initiatives are chipping away at those rights, including by giving pro-life groups access to women considering abortions.

The draft of this year's text says the G7 “reiterate our commitments in the Hiroshima Leaders’ Communiqué to universal access to adequate, affordable, and quality health services for women, including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.”

Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Borgo Egnazia, Italy, and Maria Grazia Murru in Bari contributed to this report.

FILE - From left, European Council President Charles Michel, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stand for a group photo at the G7, Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Borgo Egnazia, Italy. Pope Francis is taking his call for artificial intelligence to be developed and used according to ethical lines to the Group of Seven nations’ meeting in Puglia. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

FILE - From left, European Council President Charles Michel, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stand for a group photo at the G7, Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Borgo Egnazia, Italy. Pope Francis is taking his call for artificial intelligence to be developed and used according to ethical lines to the Group of Seven nations’ meeting in Puglia. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres arrives for a working session on AI, Energy, Africa and Mideast, at the G7, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Borgo Egnazia, near Bari, southern Italy. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres arrives for a working session on AI, Energy, Africa and Mideast, at the G7, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Borgo Egnazia, near Bari, southern Italy. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Jordan's King Abdullah II arrives on day two of the 50th G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

Jordan's King Abdullah II arrives on day two of the 50th G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil, left, shares a light moment with Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni as he is welcomed on day two of the 50th G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil, left, shares a light moment with Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni as he is welcomed on day two of the 50th G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

From left, India's prime minister Narendra Modi, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and President of World Bank, Ajay Banga share a light moment on day two of the 50th G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

From left, India's prime minister Narendra Modi, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and President of World Bank, Ajay Banga share a light moment on day two of the 50th G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

Pope Francis sits during a working session on AI, Energy, Africa and Mideast, at the G7, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Borgo Egnazia, near Bari, southern Italy. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Pope Francis sits during a working session on AI, Energy, Africa and Mideast, at the G7, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Borgo Egnazia, near Bari, southern Italy. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

From left, United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, French President Emmanuel Macron, Pope Francis and Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni listen to the pontiff speaking during a working session on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Energy, Africa-Mediterranean, on day two of the 50th G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

From left, United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, French President Emmanuel Macron, Pope Francis and Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni listen to the pontiff speaking during a working session on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Energy, Africa-Mediterranean, on day two of the 50th G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

Pope Francis greets India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he arrives to a G7 Working Session with Outreach Countries and International Countries during the G7 Summit in Savelletri Di Fasano, Italy on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

Pope Francis greets India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he arrives to a G7 Working Session with Outreach Countries and International Countries during the G7 Summit in Savelletri Di Fasano, Italy on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

U.S. President Joe Biden, right, greets Pope Francis ahead of a working session on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Energy, Africa-Mediterranean, on day two of the 50th G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. President Joe Biden, right, greets Pope Francis ahead of a working session on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Energy, Africa-Mediterranean, on day two of the 50th G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

G7 world leaders and other leaders from guest nations attend a working session on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Energy, Africa-Mediterranean, on day two of the 50th G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

G7 world leaders and other leaders from guest nations attend a working session on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Energy, Africa-Mediterranean, on day two of the 50th G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, on Friday, June 14, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, front right, arrives for bilateral talks with U.S. President Joe Biden, at the G7, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Borgo Egnazia, near Bari, southern Italy. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, front right, arrives for bilateral talks with U.S. President Joe Biden, at the G7, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Borgo Egnazia, near Bari, southern Italy. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A skydiver flies with a Canada flag as the Italian skydiving team puts on an exhibition for world leaders during the G7 Summit in Borgo Egnazia, Italy, on Thursday, June 13, 2024. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

A skydiver flies with a Canada flag as the Italian skydiving team puts on an exhibition for world leaders during the G7 Summit in Borgo Egnazia, Italy, on Thursday, June 13, 2024. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

FILE -From right, U.S. President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and European Council President Charles Michel watch a skydiving demo during the G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations are turning their attention to migration on the second day of their summit Friday. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)

FILE -From right, U.S. President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and European Council President Charles Michel watch a skydiving demo during the G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations are turning their attention to migration on the second day of their summit Friday. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)

Clockwise from left; European Council President Charles Michel, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attend a roundtable session entitled "Africa, climate change and development" on the first day of a G7 world leaders summit, at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

Clockwise from left; European Council President Charles Michel, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attend a roundtable session entitled "Africa, climate change and development" on the first day of a G7 world leaders summit, at Borgo Egnazia, southern Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. (Christopher Furlong/Pool Photo via AP)

World Bank president Ajay Banga, right, speaks with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni during the Partnership for global infrastructure and investment event at the G7 summit, Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Fasano, Italy. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

World Bank president Ajay Banga, right, speaks with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni during the Partnership for global infrastructure and investment event at the G7 summit, Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Fasano, Italy. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

U.S. President Joe Biden and leaders attend the Partnership for global infrastructure and investment event at the G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

U.S. President Joe Biden and leaders attend the Partnership for global infrastructure and investment event at the G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, listens to Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in a working session with world leaders during a G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, listens to Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in a working session with world leaders during a G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

U.S. President Joe Biden and leaders attend the Partnership for global infrastructure and investment event at the G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

U.S. President Joe Biden and leaders attend the Partnership for global infrastructure and investment event at the G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

President Joe Biden and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, left, attend the Partnership for global infrastructure and investment event at the G7 summit, Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Borgo Egnazia, Italy. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Joe Biden and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, left, attend the Partnership for global infrastructure and investment event at the G7 summit, Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Borgo Egnazia, Italy. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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