Earlier this month, the California Senate unanimously approved a bill permitting college athletes to receive sponsorship and endorsement money—something the NCAA currently prohibits.
The Fair Pay to Play Act allows college athletes to earn money with their name, image, or likeness while prohibiting the NCAA from revoking student-athlete eligibility as a result of receiving such payment. Schools would still be unable to pay athletes for attending their institutions, but athletes could receive compensation from third-parties.
From here, the bill goes to Governor Newsom for signing. The NCAA has asked Governor Newsom withhold his signature as the organization asserts the legislation would unbalance college athletics as California institutions would have an “unfair recruiting advantage” that “would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions.”
In a letter signed by 21 members of the NCAA, the NCAA President alleges that the Act is unconstitutional and threatens the exclusion of California athletes that might exercise their rights under the bill if passed. In response, California Senator Nancy Skinner is not impressed by the NCAA’s threats, stating, “The NCAA has repeatedly lost anti-trust cases in courts throughout the nation[.] As a result, threats are their primary weapon.”
The NCAA has long been criticized for exploiting student-athletes. The organization is a multi-billion dollar money-making machine that rakes in cash from the sale of television revenue, apparel, tickets, etc. Of course the NCAA is not the only one making money from these athletes; the schools, coaches, and everyone else involved are also getting paid. The students are the only ones excluded.
The exclusions are not limited to major shoe deals and video games, student athletes are barred from making money off of a wide range of things. For instance, a college gymnast cannot give private gymnastics lessons or get paid for being involved in a gymnastics camp.
On the other hand, some are concerned that bills of this nature would hurt the less prominent athletic programs. It is well known that many colleges use the funds from their football and basketball programs to fund smaller sports, such as swimming and lacrosse.
The NCAA has been successful in the past when states adopt legislation that interferes with their chokehold on student athletes. In the 1990s, the NCAA successfully defeated a Nevada law directed at due process protection for students. Relying on the Commerce Clause, the NCAA was able to sway the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the law should be invalidated because it placed a burden on interstate commerce. A similar challenge is likely in store for the Fair Pay to Play Act.