California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act into law this week, allowing California college athletes to profit off of their own names, images and likenesses beginning in 2023.
The bill has been controversial as it moved through California’s legislative system, with the NCAA publicly declaring that the law would create an unequal playing field between California schools and colleges in the rest of the United States. The NCAA implied that the bill could lead to NCAA bans for California schools.
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CNN reports that the law will go into effect in 2023, but could also face some court challenges. The law would allow college athletes to sign endorsement and licensing deals while in college – something college athletes can currently do only if there is no reference made to their involvement in college sports.
The NCAA has shown very little wiggle room in the enforcement of those rules. In a swimming-centric case, two University of Iowa swimmers got in trouble in 2017 for launching their own T-shirt screening business, complete with a GoFundMe page. Because that GoFundMe page mentioned that the two (Chris Dawson and Tom Rathbun) had met while swimming at Iowa, the two ran up against potential NCAA ineligibility and were ultimately forced to remove all mention of swimming from the site, as well as removing both athlete’s names and photos. The two ultimately went by the pseudonyms ‘Rocky and Slide.’
The NCAA released the following statement today in response to Newsom’s signing of the bill:
As a membership organization, the NCAA agrees changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA’s rules-making process. Unfortunately, this new law already is creating confusion for current and future student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses, and not just in California.
We will consider next steps in California while our members move forward with ongoing efforts to make adjustments to NCAA name, image and likeness rules that are both realistic in modern society and tied to higher education.
As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide.
The Pac-12 Conference, too, is against the new law. Their statement:
The Pac-12 is disappointed in the passage of SB 206 and believes it will have very significant negative consequences for our student-athletes and broader universities in California. This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports and many unintended consequences related to this professionalism, imposes a state law that conflicts with national rules, will blur the lines for how California universities recruit student-athletes and compete nationally, and will likely reduce resources and opportunities for student-athletes in Olympic sports and have a negative disparate impact on female student-athletes.
Our universities have led important student-athlete reform over the past years, but firmly believe all reforms must treat our student-athletes as students pursuing an education, and not as professional athletes. We will work with our universities to determine next steps and ensure continuing support for our student-athletes.
Meanwhile University of Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez has also spoken out against the law, saying on the radio that he wouldn’t schedule games against teams from California due to the new rules. The Badger swim & dive teams don’t have any California opponents on their schedules this year, but did previously have a series with USC as recently as 2017-2018.