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Monday, May 19, 2014
Boston City Council member Josh Zakim proposes Athletes Bill of Rights in Boston
Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim has filed two ordinances designed to protect college athletes in Boston and take on the NCAA. This is an interesting use of municipal law to regulate college sports, which have traditionally been regulated by federal and state laws. It will be worth watching how the NCAA responds.
The first ordinance is the "College Athlete Bill of Rights," which Zakim's office in a statement says,
[S]teps in where the NCAA has failed to adequately safeguard the educational and health rights of college athletes. The Bill of Rights guarantees that a college athlete who receives an athletic scholarship from a college or university in Boston will receive an equivalent scholarship commitment from his or her university that extends throughout the undergraduate career. This commitment remains even when the college athlete suffers an injury that ends his or her participation in athletics, or simply falls out of favor with his or her coach. "If the mission of the NCAA and its member institutions truly is to educate, then scholarships should not be renewable at the sole discretion of the school," said Zakim. "Asking college athletes to make a four year commitment to their schools without any reciprocal commitment from the school is unjust and hypocritical."
The Bill of Rights also requires that colleges and universities in Boston which grant athletic scholarships provide college athletes with comprehensive health insurance throughout their careers, as well as reimbursement for any uncovered health expenses relating to athletic injury. Moreover, if a college athlete requires medical care beyond his or her playing career, the university will be responsible for providing that care or covering its cost. "When a college athlete has committed his or her body to competing on behalf of a school, the least that school can do is guarantee that college athlete's healthcare," said Zakim. "Forcing a college athlete to go 'out of pocket' to pay for an injury suffered in his or her sport, as I know happens to college athletes in Boston and elsewhere, cannot be tolerated."
Finally, the Bill of Rights addresses the rising troubles of sports-related dehydration and concussion in practice and training sessions, which is where the majority of such incidents occur. Inspired by Massachusetts legislation covering high school athletics, the ordinance mandates that any college athlete who loses consciousness or suffers a concussion, whether in a practice or training session, must sit out the remainder of that session. Any further participation is prohibited until the college athlete receives documented medical clearance provided to his or her athleticThe companion ordinance is the "College Athlete Head Injury Gameday Safety Protocol." It proposes to
institute health and safety measures specifically related to head, neck, and spine injuries which occur at intercollegiate athletic events anywhere in Boston, regardless of where the competing teams are domiciled. In addition to Massachusetts high schools, professional leagues like the NFL and NHL have such policies in place. The NCAA does not. The Protocol requires colleges and universities to create an emergency medical action plan for all gameday venues and provide an on-call neurotrauma consultant to support on-site medical staff. For football, ice hockey, and men's lacrosse, which produce the highest rates of gameday concussion, the neurotrauma consultant will be required on-site. Further, the Protocol bans re-entry into a competition when a college athlete loses consciousness, suffers a concussion, or is suspected to have suffered a concussion.