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

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TOPEKA — An effort to pass a bill allowing collegiate student-athletes to receive compensation for their name and likeness in exchange for pushing through a ban on transgender athletes in school sports drew scorn Thursday from Gov. Laura Kelly.

The controversial Senate Bill 55 would have required participation in K-12 and college sports to correspond with the gender assigned at birth. 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.

The 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 are 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. “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 leadership 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. “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.”

Kelly decried the proposal during a ceremonial signing of a bill increasing the penalty for stalking a minor younger than 14 to a felony. Advocates of the bill said it would expand on and close a loophole in Jodi’s Law, which broadened the definition of stalking and made it easier to prosecute.

The bill arose after James Loganbill, a 58-year-old former teacher at Meadow Lane Elementary in Olathe, was charged with reckless stalking after admitting he was attracted to an 11-year-old student. Upon his arrest, detectives found more than 200 pictures and several videos of the girl on Loganbill’s phone.

Reckless stalking is a misdemeanor and only carries a punishment of up to a year in prison.

The girl and her mother, Kristyn Antonucci, pushed for this change in the law, which passed both chambers without opposition. The Antonucci family was in attendance Tuesday.

Rep. Megan Lynn, an Olathe Republican and champion of House Bill 2071, said the law would provide needed protection for Kansas children. She said as a survivor of childhood assault herself she understands the “silence, shame and pain” that come with this traumatic experience.

“But today, silence, shame and pain is not how the story ends,” Lynn said. “Today, we stand united that we will not let this happen again — not to our sons, not to our daughters. We will stand against this darkness and fiercely protect the children of Kansas.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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