The California State Assembly passed a bill this week allowing college athletes to make money off of their own names, images and likenesses – a bill the NCAA has already said could lead to competition bans on California schools.
California passed the bill by an overwhelming margin. USA Today reports that it passed the assembly 72-0, with 7 members not voting. The bill was amended after passing the State Senate, so it will have to return to the Senate, but USA Today says that this week’s vote “all but assures that the measure will go to Gov. Gavin Newsome (D),” who will have 30 days to sign or veto the bill.
The bill would effectively make it easier for NCAA athletes to earn money off of their own names, images and likenesses – revenue currently very strictly controlled by the NCAA’s amateurism rules. Athletes can make money off of their own names, but no reference at all can be 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 has already expressed concern that California’s bill would “make it impossible to host fair national championships.” NCAA President Mark Emmert has threatened a ban on all California schools from competition at the NCAA Championships. California has 23 Division I schools.
California’s representatives were critical of that NCAA stance. Per USA Today:
“I just want to say, ‘NCAA, don’t threaten California. Don’t threaten us’,” said bill sponsor Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D). “Because we have formidable schools. We have formidable alumni. And we have formidable viewership. And we can leverage those things until 2023, when this bill takes effect. I’m sick of being leveraged by the NCAA on the backs of athletes who have the right to their own name and image.”
The bill wouldn’t take effect until January 1, 2023.