California governor signs Fair Pay to Play Act

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act on Monday, which will allow college athletes in the state to profit from endorsements and their likeness in defiance of NCAA rules.

The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

Gavin Newsom
California governor Gavin Newsom. (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

Newsom signed the bill on LeBron James’ HBO show, “The Shop.” The Los Angeles Lakers star has supported the legislation.

“It’s going to initiate dozens of other states to do similar legislation. And it’s going to change college sports for the better by having now the interest, finally, of the athletes on par with the interests of the institutions,” said Newsom, a Democrat. “Now we’re rebalancing that power arrangement.”

James spoke about the new law Monday at the Lakers’ training camp.

“For sure I would have been one of those kids if I had went off to Ohio State or if I had went off to any one of these big-time colleges where pretty much that 23 jersey would have been sold all over the place,” James said. “My body would have been on the NCAA Basketball Game 2004.

“The Schottenstein Center (Ohio State basketball arena) would have been sold out every single night if I was there. … Me and my mom didn’t have anything, we wouldn’t have been able to benefit at all from it. And the university would have been able to capitalize on everything that I would’ve (done) there for that year or two or whatever.

“I understand what those kids are going through. I feel for those kids who’ve been going through it for so long, so that’s why it was personal to me.”

In June, NCAA President Mark Emmert said if the bill became California law, schools in the state could be prohibited from participating in NCAA championships. This first-in-the-nation legislation could face legal challenges from the NCAA, which has about three years to consider changes to its rules on amateurism.

The NCAA released a statement Monday:

“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, which includes four member institutions based in California, also issued a 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.”

Also on Monday, Rep. Kionne McGhee filed a similar bill in the Florida House of Representatives. McGhee (D-Miami) introduced House Bill 251, which, if passed, would take effect July 2, 2020 — 2 1/2 years before the California law kicks in.

McGhee said recently regarding his proposed bill, according to the News Service of Florida, “The insistence that college athletes follow a strict definition of being ‘non-professionals’ is a holdover from decades ago and doesn’t accurately reflect modern college athletics.”

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)