By Vincent Chiaverini
It’s Friday night; all of your friends are over, you turn on your game console, and the game of choice is NCAA Football by EA Sports. Everyone is cheering for their respective colleges from Alabama to Clemson. But, you know who isn’t cheering at this party? All of the student-athletes who needed money, but weren’t paid for the use of their image and likeness.
This is just one example of why the Fair Pay to Play Act, a proposal by California State Senator Nancy Skinner, has been introduced. College football video games have come and gone, however, players wanting an equal cut of the profits generated from their skills is not going anywhere. On September 30, 2019, California Governor, Gavin Newsom, signed this act into law on the popular HBO show, “The Shop,” starring Lebron James.
I’m so incredibly proud to share this moment with all of you. @gavinnewsom came to The Shop to do something that will change the lives for countless athletes who deserve it! @uninterrupted hosted the formal signing for SB 206 allowing college athletes to responsibly get paid. pic.twitter.com/NZQGg6PY9d— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 30, 2019
The Act will go into effect on January 1, 2023. This signing makes California the first state to oppose the strict NCAA bylaws that forbid student-athletes from accepting outside payments or any other deals generating income as result of their name, image, and likeness. In addition to allowing student-athletes to receive advice from legal counsel and seasoned agents, this change would allow marketable college athletes to be freely sign endorsement deals, licensing agreements (including video games), advertisement deals, and even trading cards. Specifically, NCAA member schools in California would no longer be able to punish their athletes for making these sorts of earnings in association with their name, image, and likeness.
Some argue that Tim Tebow came from a privileged family and never had to worry about basic amenities that some student-athletes, although on scholarship, struggle with today.
So, what is the solution? If this Act goes through, it’d be effective January 1, 2023, and universities would be prohibited from taking away scholarships from students who choose to pursue such opportunities. The NCAA argues that “these are students first and athletes second.” Mark Emmert, the NCAA President, went a step further stating, California schools could be dropped from championship games if the bill goes through. The NCAA also claims the bill has constitutional challenges and if passed, would give schools in California an unfair recruiting advantage. However, many seem to disagree with the collegiate giant whose industry just hit $1 billion. As of 2011, more than 80% of full-scholarship football and men’s basketball players lived at or below the federal poverty level. What the NCAA and people who oppose the bill might be surprised to find out is that many college athletes who would benefit from this bill are not those who will later earn millions of dollars in professional sports. Some elite female athletes, for example, will not have the same lucrative earning opportunities when they become professionals. In the past, the NCAA has made exceptions for college athletes, who are also Olympic athletes, to receive compensation for their unique talents. However, the NCAA says this is a different beast entirely with how the bill is currently written.
Now, where is the middle ground for California and the NCAA? Should players be allowed to have endorsement deals, but with regulation capping the number of deals they can sign? Should the income generated only be allowed to be accessible AFTER college? Or, should the masses support a system founded under the idea of amateurism, and accept the fact that college athletes are always one play away from a career-ending injury?
Court cases are looming and they likely will be filed by the NCAA before the bill goes into effect on January 1, 2023. The NCAA has also assigned a panel to review the California Fair Pay to Play Act and is scheduled to make their final report, in response to the bill, on or around October 28, 2019.
All that is certain is I want NCAA football games back. If this bill goes into effect, the NCAA will have some choices to make, including: (1) create a separate set of rules for California member schools (and other states’ members); (2) simply let college athletes in all states reap the benefits given to those in California; or (3) ban California schools from NCAA championship games.