Fair Pay to Play Act could allow California collegiate athletes to earn money from sponsorships

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SB 206, also known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, won bipartisan support Wednesday; if passed, it will allow all student-athletes enrolled in California private and public universities to earn money from endorsements or sponsorship deals, according to a press release from state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

According to the press release, the bill, which would go into effect in 2023, was introduced by Skinner and was approved by the state Senate with a 31-4 vote. The bill was designed to protect California collegiate athletes, who have produced tens of billions of dollars for their colleges, corporate sponsors and television networks, according to the press release.

“The California Senate has spoken loud and clear: Student athletes should enjoy the same rights as all other students to earn income from their talents,” Skinner said in her press release. “SB 206 gives our college athletes the same financial opportunity afforded to Olympic athletes.”

According to the press release, the majority of full-scholarship collegiate athletes live at or below the poverty level, and earning income from endorsements or sponsorship deals would not affect students’ ability to qualify for scholarships.

In the press release, Skinner said the rules of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, “disproportionately harm” low-income families and, in particular, women, who have fewer opportunities to earn an income from professional sports after college.

“SB 206 doesn’t require colleges to pay student athletes or incur any other costs,” Skinner said in the press release. “Instead, it will help relieve the financial pressure on young athletes to quit school and turn pro before they’ve completed their degrees.”

According to the UC Office of the President spokesperson Sarah McBride, the University of California believes that policy changes regarding student-athlete compensation should be addressed at the national level to ensure a “level playing field” across intercollegiate athletic conferences. McBride noted that under the bill, UC student-athletes could be in violation of NCAA bylaws and could be at risk of losing NCAA eligibility.

Despite the UC’s concerns about UC student-athletes’ educational and competitive opportunities, the press release states that the bill will protect athletes from the NCAA. The Fair Pay to Play Act states that the NCAA cannot prevent student-athletes from earning compensation and cannot ban California colleges from intercollegiate sports if their athletes sign sponsorship deals. The bill will also prevent California colleges from enforcing NCAA rules that bar student-athletes from earning compensation.

The press release added that the bill will allow student-athletes to hire sports agents and that it will bar colleges from using sponsorship deals as high school student recruiting tools. The Fair Pay to Play Act will next go before the state Assembly for consideration.

“We appreciate and share the bill’s author’s interest in student-athlete welfare and UC takes great pride in being a leader in this area,” McBride said in an email.

Emily Hom is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hom_emily.