CA collegiate athletes may be paid for sponsorships, endorsements as Senate bill passes

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California university athletes may receive compensation for their name, image and likeness after SB 206 passed with a unanimous vote in the California State Assembly on Monday. 

SB 206, known as the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” was introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, in February to institute payment for collegiate athletes in California. The bill passed the Assembly with a 73-0 vote and the state Senate with a 39-0 vote. It now awaits a signature from Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign the bill into law.   

Student-athletes nationwide generate billions for their universities and sponsors, but these athletes are not being compensated, according to a press release from Skinner’s office in May. The NCAA’s “amateurism” rule currently does not allow student-athletes to be paid from sponsorships and endorsements.

“NCAA rules disproportionately harm students from low-income families,” Skinner said in the press release. “And they’re particularly unfair to female athletes, because for many young women, college is the only time they could earn income, since women have fewer professional sports opportunities than men.”

Should the bill be signed, the policy will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023. 

The bill continues to stir up controversy in the collegiate athletics community, as the NCAA released a letter the organization’s board of governors sent to Newsom on Wednesday, saying the bill would give California universities an unfair recruiting advantage.   

“Right now, nearly half a million student-athletes in all 50 states compete under the same rules,” the letter said. “This bill would remove that essential element of fairness and equal treatment that forms the bedrock of college sports.”

The NCAA formed a working group in May to study the issue of name, image and likeness at a national level, and the outcomes of that study are expected to be released in October, according to a NCAA press release.

NCAA president Mark Emmert also sent a letter to California legislators in June, urging them to vote against SB 206, indicating that California universities may be barred from participating in athletic events should the bill go into effect, according to USA Today. Emmert also requested that any legislative action be delayed until the working group’s findings are released. 

UC has opposed the bill, given the possibility that athletic programs may lose NCAA and conference eligibility, according to UC Office of the President, or UCOP spokesperson Sarah McBride. 

“Ultimately, this bill would do more harm than good and likely deny our students a chance to compete at the highest levels,” McBride said in her email. “We believe that any sweeping policy change around student-athlete compensation should first be addressed at the national level.”

The bill stipulates, however, that any athletic association, conference or other group with authority over collegiate athletics may not prevent a university, other than a community college, from participating in athletics as a result of student-athlete compensation. 

Cal Athletics spokesperson Herb Benenson said in an email that the campus is monitoring the developments of the bill as well as the NCAA working group’s findings. 

“Should SB 206 become law, it would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2023, allowing time to fully understand how it would be implemented, and the impact it would have on athletic departments and student-athletes,” Benenson said in an email.

Amanda Bradford is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @amandabrad_uc.