COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio became the 18th state Monday to allow college athletes to earn money off their name, image and likeness after a GOP attempt to add a transgender sports ban to the bill forced the governor to issue an executive order.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, surrounded by university presidents and an ex-Ohio State University quarterback, signed an executive order that would bring Ohio up to speed with more than a dozen other states who now prevent universities or college athletic conferences from punishing athletes if they are compensated based on their sports performance.
Such compensation could involve anything from a book-signing at a bookstore to a deal with a local restaurant. Exceptions include sponsorships for marijuana, alcohol, tobacco and casinos, which are not permitted under the order, State Sen. Niraj Antani said.
"For Ohio to be competitive, we need to get this now," DeWine said. "We need to let everyone know that Ohio is in the game. Ohio is going to stay in the game."
About half of those states — including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas — will have their laws go into effect July 1. Ohio State University football coach Ryan Day lobbied heavily for the change, saying Ohio schools would be at a recruiting disadvantage without it.
Antani, a suburban Dayton Republican, pushed this legislation through the Senate and onto the House floor Thursday where Republican lawmakers attached an amendment to the bipartisan bill targeting transgender female athletes.
Even as DeWine signed the executive order, lawmakers working out final details of the state budget included the compensation provision, meaning it will be enacted into law beginning July 1.
"This is a very urgent and pressing matter that is of deep concern to Ohioans, so I thought it was very unfortunate," Antani said of the controversial amendment.
The proposal, titled the Save Women's Sports Act, would require schools and higher education institutions in the state to designate "separate single-sex teams and sports for each sex."
In a rare Statehouse outburst, Democratic lawmakers pounded their desks and stood up in opposition as the bill's sponsor, GOP state Rep. Jena Powell, introduced the amendment.
Supporters, like Powell, say the measures are necessary to maintain fairness and protect the integrity in women's sports in Ohio, though lawmakers have yet to point to a single instance where this has been an issue in the state.
DeWine immediately criticized the ban on transgender girls. His executive order is a way to work around the Legislature to ensure the athletic compensation issue takes place without getting tied up in the politics of the transgender ban.
On Monday, DeWine reiterated his opposition to the measure, highlighting the impact it could have on children could be detrimental.
"The welfare of those young people needs to be absolutely most important to this issue," DeWine said. "Whether that young person is transgender or not."
Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.