BOSTON – A city councilor has proposed a College Athlete Bill of Rights that would prevent Boston’s schools from revoking scholarships when athletes are injured or otherwise fall out of favor with coaches.
The ordinance proposed by Josh Zakim would require the colleges and universities in the city that offer athletic scholarships to maintain the grants until the students have had a real chance to graduate regardless of whether they continue to play sports.
The bill of rights also requires comprehensive health care that would pay the medical expenses for any sport-related injuries — for the rest of the athlete’s life.
“They need to fulfil their commitment to that athlete,” said Daniel Sibor, the chief of staff for Zakim, a first-term councilor from the Back Bay.
The ordinance was filed Friday and is scheduled to be introduced at the city council meeting Wednesday. Sibor said he expects a public hearing this summer.
Boston is dense with colleges and four — Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Harvard — play Division I sports. (Harvard is across the Charles River in Cambridge, but its athletic facilities are largely in the Boston neighborhood of Allston.) Three of the schools did not immediately respond to requests for comment; spokesman Colin Riley said BU looks forward to working with Zakim.
“The health and well-being of our students is our highest priority,” Riley said.
Many provisions wouldn’t apply to schools that don’t give athletic scholarships. Other aspects of the bill of rights, along with a head-injury protocol filed separately, would apply not just to Boston schools but to their opponents for games played in the city.
“If the university and conferences and the NCAA are not going to act, it’s up to local governments to see what they can do to protect players,” said Ramogi Huma, who advocates for athletes’ rights as the executive director of the National College Players Association.
“These same universities have to comply with a 400-plus page NCAA rulebook. If they can comply with rules that try to prevent players from selling their own bowl rings, or from receiving a few bucks for signing autographs, they can comply with rules designed to protect players’ long-term health.”
Under the bill of rights, schools in the city would be required to offer injured or cut athletes equivalent, nonathletic scholarships for a total of five years or until the athlete graduates, whichever is sooner. (Scholarships could be withdrawn for disciplinary or academic reasons.)
Other provisions would require the school to provide athletes with “financial and life skills” and promise the athlete the same disciplinary rights as other students.
Calling for a “Right to Health and Safety,” the ordinance also would require schools to provide athletes with comprehensive, year-round medical care, and to train athletes and staff in concussion and dehydration awareness. The head-injury ordinance also filed by Zakim creates a protocol that would prevent players from returning to games after a concussion or becoming unconscious.
Sibor said that the bill of rights would not put the Boston schools at a competitive disadvantage because they could replace the athletic scholarships, which are limited by the NCAA, with other grants. Schools may incur costs from the new scholarships and health insurance, he said.
“If you can’t be competitive while providing a high standard of care to these athletes who are risking their bodies for the school, we can live with that,” he said.
The Boston ordinance was based on similar, but more limited legislation enacted in California in 2012 that was also backed by the NCPA. Sibor said Boston, which has a handful of Division III schools along with the major college athletic programs, was a natural next step for the athletes’ rights movement.
“We have a platform in Boston,” he said. “In addition to the fact that we have three schools here, we also have the reputation of being an academic leader, and a leader on social issues. We believe that combination is unique here. It’s a duty to follow through on those values that we hold important.”