by Colin Horan ‘21
On September 30, California’s Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act into state law. The law, which was introduced earlier in February, had been passed in an unanimous 73-0 vote in California’s state legislature. When the bill goes into effect on January 1, 2023, it will allow for California college athletes to be paid for their Names, Images and Likenesses, or their “NIL Rights.”
The bill also will permit players to carry out endorsement deals while in school. Schools won’t be able to pay their athletes directly like an employee, but will allow for them to seek opportunities to get paid from outside sources. Players will now be able to appear for autograph signings, and beloved video game franchises such as NCAA Football and Basketball, would since EA sports, the developer of the game, can use real players in their game. EA has also stated they are interested in bringing back the game in the future. Schools would also be able to sell apparel and merchandise with player’s names and photos.
Once the bill was announced, The NCAA quickly responded and told all California schools that once their athletes started to make money, they will ban their teams from all bowls and championships. Division 1 Teams such as USC, UCLA, and Stanford would be ineligible from competing for a title, but the threat did nothing to sway California’s decision, and the bill was still passed. Because states with passed legislature will legally force universities to provide athletes the right to negotiate with their names and likeness, some believe schools may leave their conferences, or even the NCAA, and create their own independent conferences if they cannot compete for a championship.
The main argument for the Fair Pay to Play Act is that universities and the NCAA generate billions of dollars off these players, and if they aren’t getting a salary of some sort, they should at least have the right to use their own name or image. The athletes, the ones who are creating all of this money, are the only ones who aren’t getting any of the cut. The NCAA and others that oppose the bill believe that the players are in school to learn, and that they are able to get a free education through their sports scholarships. There is also belief that universities will lose of portion of certain sales because they will now face increased competition over revenue from its players in things like apparel and merchandise. The cuts may be to the campus facilities itself, or other sports that don’t bring in as much money. The NCAA has also stated that athletes receiving any form of competition blurs the lines between amateurism and professionalism.
Several other states have followed California’s lead and put similar bills into the legislative process. There is a total of 10 states with proposed laws similar to that of California’s, including states such as Florida, New York and South Carolina. Various other states, including Maryland, have considered action but have nothing officially proposed yet.
Across the country there has been public support for the bill and others like it. A recent study by Seton Hall University showed that around 60 percent of Americans are in favor of college athletes being paid for their NIL rights, and a whopping 80 percent of adults under age 30 supported the bill. Numerous superstars such as LeBron James and Richard Sherman have publicly declared their support. Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski has also shown support for the bill.
On Tuesday, the NCAA’s governing board unanimously voted to allow for athletes to use their NIL rights. There are no set rules in place yet but it is expected that guidelines will be put into place by April 2020. Despite this huge step for athletes across the country, many sceptisists still think the NCAA will try to work any rules in their favor to keep more profits away from the players. After facing a mountain of opposition, the NCAA has finally begun to give in.