On Monday, September 9, California Gov. Gavin Newsom passed the Fair Pay to Play Act. According to Forbes, “The bill permits college athletes in the state to hire agents and be paid for endorsements. For the first time, student athletes will be allowed to promote products and companies and financially benefit from their college sports activities.”
The proposed law would allow college athletes to hire agents and get paid for the use of their name, image and likeness. It will also make it illegal for California universities to revoke an athlete’s scholarship or eligibility for accepting endorsements.
Powerhouse schools such as University of Southern California, University of California, Los Angeles and Stanford University, among others would be impacted.
Proponents of the legislation include Hayley Hodson, Stanford’s top volleyball recruit. “The NCAA has gotten away with being able to exploit the media rights of student-athletes and they generate billions of dollars in revenue from an unpaid labor force,” Hodson said in an NBC News interview.
Big-name celebrities are voicing their support as well. LeBron @KingJames tweeted, “Everyone is California- call your politicians and tell them to support SB 206! This law is a GAME CHANGER. College athletes can responsibly get paid for what they do and the billions they create.”
A CNBC headline claims, “March Madness makes enough money to nearly fund the entire NCAA—here’s how.” The Los Angeles Times writes, “UCLA’s Under Armour deal for $280 million is the biggest in NCAA history.”
The NCAA organization makes millions, yet some student-athletes such as Shabazz Napier live in poverty. The former UConn basketball player was interviewed shortly before winning a national championship. “There are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving.”
Some argue that this legislation will recruit top athletes across the nation and entice them to play in California. On Wednesday, September 11 the NCAA sent a letter in response to California Gov. Gavin Newson, reinforcing the organization’s belief that California Senate Bill 206 would eradicate the distinction between collegiate and professional athletics as well as eliminate the element of fairness supporting college sports:
“If the bill becomes law and California’s 58 NCAA schools are compelled to allow an unrestricted name, image and likeness scheme, it would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics and, because it gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage, would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions.”
As a former Division I athlete, I can see the enticing appeals of this policy proposal. Athletes spend hours on end practicing their sport and making the necessary lifestyle choices to prosper and bring home victories. Nights out are sacrificed for nights in to instill proper rest and recovery. After back-squatting, lifting and throwing med balls with unnecessary aggression, we bury our noses in books, trying our best to maintain the encompassing demands of the student-athlete lifestyle that we willingly chose.
I hail from the non-revenue sports world of cross country and track and cringe at the legislation’s detrimental implications of eradicating the level playing board the NCAA has tried to adamantly enforce. As a woman, I recoil at the inevitable gap the policy will play into widening between men’s highly coveted sports and women’s sports, which go largely unnoticed.
Adopting SB 206 could arguably draw even more attention to male athletes in America’s main revenue-generating sports—basketball, football and baseball—and widen the already-existing gap between male and female sports.
And what of athletes that don’t have the resources to hire agents? How would this model impact high school students working diligently toward collegiate scholarships? And collegiate athletes demonstrating their strength and skill to earn a professional contract? Would students see a point in striving toward higher education, if organizations such as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour would provide top-performing athletes with enticing endorsements?
Perhaps top recruits would strive toward big-name brands as opposed to big-name schools. Schools in turn could potentially lose the incentive to provide high-performing athletes with scholarships—why would they dish out tens of thousands when Under Armour can do it for them?
The California Fair Pay to Play Act will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2023. Until then, it’s fair game.