Bill to Protect Student-Athletes’ Rights, Safety Passes General Assembly

Measure Honors Terps Football Player Lost to Heat Stroke 

By Cheryl Costello 

A Maryland father is making a difference for future college athletes, after losing his son to a medical emergency on the football field at the University of Maryland, College Park. 

Marty McNair has led the charge in Annapolis for the Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act, named for his son who died in 2018. Jordan McNair suffered heatstroke during an offseason workout with the Terps. “How can you have a healthy kid Tuesday morning and an emergency liver transplant Friday afternoon?” asks Marty McNair. 

Now, McNair is keeping his son’s memory alive through state legislation. “One of the things we learned early on is policy and legislation are really the way to make an impact,” he says. 

Indeed, the bill has passed both the House and the Senate, and Governor Larry Hogan is expected to sign it. Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City) sponsored the measure. “This is a bill that looks at how we are treating our student-athletes in a holistic way,” Lierman says. It “requires all athletic programs to adopt guidelines to prevent, assess and treat serious sports-related conditions including brain injury and heat illness.” 

In a statement, a University of Maryland spokeswoman says, “The University of Maryland is committed to continuing to provide superior health and wellness support for our student-athletes.” The university is a partner in the Jordan McNair Foundation. 

“There’s accountability on both sides. So, if my child comes to play with you, what are you going to do to protect my child in regards to if anything happens?” asks Marty McNair.  McNair says when Jordan was recruited, he didn’t ask questions about safety on the field. “My only concern was, can he play?” He has since written a book to help parents and students ask the right questions. “One of the things I wish I would have taught Jordan is to listen to your body. If your body tells you to stop—stop. Heat strokes don’t occur in games; heat strokes always occur while people are practicing.” 

While McNair will not get to see his son graduate next month, helping pass legislation in the general assembly is helping him work through the emptiness of his grief. “I just applaud the state of Maryland for having the fortitude and the perseverance really to go outside of the lines.” 

One section of the Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act also focuses on the use of student-athletes’ name, image and likeness for financial gain. If the bill is signed into law, student-athletes at Maryland’s public universities and colleges would benefit from commercial use of their image.