CA Governor Signs Law Allowing College Athletes To Make Money

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.

Further coverage:

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.

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swim mom
3 years ago

Do you know how many doors this would open to allow NCAA athletes to make extra money away from their direct sport? My child is a D1 athlete who was scouted on the street for a sportswear commercial. They weren’t going to use a name, and it was just for apparel, but it still would have been a NCAA violation. That one commercial would have meant that she wouldn’t have needed student loans for one year of college. Athletes who aren’t on full rides have hefty tuition bills at many schools, but everyone thinks full rides are the norm, they’re not.

3 years ago

This is a true double edged sword/catch 22 situation. On one hand, you did have equilibrium, the ‘amateurism’ that the NCAA had over all the sports kept equilibrium among college sports…which is good.

On the other hand, NCAA was being paid billions of dollars for college students to play sports and profiting off of it, regardless of how much they say they are non-profit. It was unfair to college students which brings money to schools and brings money to networks. That does need to change. BUT….the chaos that is about to ensue, from now until equilibrium is set again (either California eventually overturns this bill, or, probably more likely, but way longer down the road, the rest of the states… Read more »

3 years ago

Education and attending a University are becoming diametrically opposed.

3 years ago

Can HS students make money now as well? No need to keep your amateur status right?

3 years ago

the death of college swimming…

3 years ago

What will the rules be? Will companies pester student athletes to make commercials during finals week? Will all athletes be heading to CA for college? Who will protect the student in the athlete?

Reply to  Tsa3
3 years ago

The NCAA can regulate much of this, similar to how the UFC regulates what a fighter can do for their sponsors during competition week.

3 years ago

If this law went into effect with no NCAA blockage, would KL be eligible to compete at Stanford again?

Swim Parent
Reply to  Nswim
3 years ago

Katie would be long gone by the time it takes effect. But I am very surprised this is the first Ledecky mention. It seems like the law should be named for her. She had to give up representing Stanford though she stayed in school and kept training there. Sad for all of us who love college swimming..well except her competitors, but she had to do it to make all the tyr $7M.

3 years ago

Potentially opens it up for schools with wealthy boosters to funnel money to athletes legally for “Use of Athlete likeness” even if actual marketability of the athlete doesn’t match $ payment. Where is Olympic Hopeful swimmer going to go: School A with wealthy booster from Acme Widget Company giving the swimmer a monthly check or School B that doesn’t have the luxury of the support of a booster?

On the other hand, how many swimmers (or non-revenue sport athletes) would this actually impact? I would think a very small percentage. Most of the impact of this would be top football and basketball athletes.

I like the discussion this generates and potential unintended consequences to stir it up further… Here’s… Read more »

Reply to  notacoach
3 years ago

Is there a negative impact if a booster pays an athlete?

Reply to  JimSwim22
3 years ago

Besides teaching the kid that taking shortcuts in life will pay off?

John S
Reply to  JimSwim22
3 years ago

Booster donations and corporate sponsorships support athletic department budgets. If these funds go directly to athletes through sponsorships/endorsements, then all things being equal, athletic department revenue will be lower. Lower athletic department revenue leads to expense reductions, which can include cutting or reducing funding for non-revenue generating sports. However “fair” this may be, I fear that this change would lead to fewer available opportunities to swim at the collegiate level.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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