Many Californians know that the NCAA has had a long-standing regulation that bars college athletes from acquiring outside compensation, such as profiting from their names, images and likenesses. However, California has been locked in a controversial conflict with the NCAA concerning this rule. In a direct rebuke, the state Assembly’s Higher Education Committee recently passed The Fair Pay to Play Act with a unanimous 9-0 vote. Our private tutors have learned that the state Senate had already approved an identical bill, and the Appropriations Committee will hear the Assembly’s bill sometime next month. The bill would then move to the Assembly floor and then on to the governor’s desk, if it is passed again.
The bill was co-authored by Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who pointed out that it is only student athletes who are prohibited from marketing their names, images, and likenesses, but that no one else under California law is prevented from doing so. She added that there would be a universal outcry if these regulations were implemented in any other industry.
Nevertheless, the NCAA has consistently stuck to its precise characterization of amateurism, and insists that its athletes should be prohibited from profiting from any outside channels, up to and including apparel contracts, autographs and even local sponsorships. NCAA president Mark Emmert warned in a letter last month–prior to the bill’s initial committee hearing–of “unintended consequences” and lobbied to have the bill postponed. Emmert indicated that he believed the bill would jeopardize the principles of intercollegiate athletics. However, Chargers left tackle, Russell Okung, stated that the purported NCAA principles deserve to be materially altered, as they are far from honorable to begin with.
Our private tutors have also learned that if passed, it would take until 2023 for the bill to go into effect. This date was set to allow ample opportunity for the NCAA to modify its rules and make the necessary adjustments. Numerous members of the Assembly’s Higher Education committee communicated their doubts that the NCAA would implement any such changes unless the changes were mandatory.
Andy Fee, Long Beach State athletic director who is against the bill, stated that he did not mind having the conversation, but rather he opposed the mechanism. Similar to Emmert, Fee also warned of unintended consequences, such as an athlete collaborating with a marijuana dispensary or a gambling entity, both of which are vehemently opposed by the NCAA.
Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Los Angeles) is also a co-author of the Fair Pay for Play Act, and has stated that the crux of the issue addressed by the bill does not concern sports at all, but rather is about fairness; about allowing young athletes to benefit from monetizing their names and likenesses. Californians must wait to see what August brings regarding the next phase of the bill’s journey.