//College Athletes Paid to Play

College Athletes Paid to Play

What you need to know about California’s Fair Pay to Play Act

California has passed a bill that would allow college athletes to hire agents, sign endorsement deals and profit off of the use of their name, image or likeness. The bill, known as the Fair Pay to Play Act (SB 206), passed unanimously through the Assembly on Monday, Sept. 9 and the Senate on Wednesday, Sept. 11. 

The bill was sent to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office just days after being endorsed by athletes such as NBA star LeBron James. On Sept. 30, clips on various social media platforms broke the news that Newsom signed the bill into law on an upcoming episode of “The Shop” hosted by James on HBO.

Athletes under the new law will not be able to get paid directly from their schools, but rather from outside sources. Derek Evans, a second-year Mechanical Engineering major on NJIT’s men’s volleyball team, said “Only really big players would get money and this mostly applies to football and basketball.” 

Evans also described his perspective on what it is like to be a college athlete, stating, “Even when not in season, athletes are only allowed a certain number of hours a week for practice with coaches. However, they can still practice outside of these hours on their own or with teammates. If you are committed, that is twelve to fifteen hours [per week] and in season can be as high as twenty to thirty plus [hours per week]. It’s like working a part time job without getting paid.”

For many athletes like Evans, the answer to whether or not they would take money for their work is based on more than simply wanting more money. 

Daniel Jablonski, a first-year General Engineering major on NJIT’s men’s swim team, said “For big-name athletes that are poor, say in football or basketball, to make money is otherwise rough and so I am in general support of the bill. I would make money off of my own name. My family is not that well-off so I would take that chance to make money for them.” 

Since the passage of the bill through the California state legislature, efforts to pass a similar bill have been revived in states such as South Carolina, Washington, Colorado, Maryland and New York. 

What sets New York’s bill apart is an additional section that would allow the athletes to directly receive pay from their schools based on the athletic departments’ revenue. This would make it more feasible for all athletes to receive compensation rather than just the top players. If the New York bill advances, it is possible that similar legislation would arise in New Jersey.

This law has set up a clash between the California government and the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) which currently bans athlete compensation. Less than a day after the bill passed through the Senate, the NCAA sent the governor a letter urging him not to sign the bill. In the letter, the NCAA stated that the bill would give California schools an unfair advantage in terms of recruiting and therefore competing, and as a result they would declare those schools ineligible for NCAA events. 

After news broke that the bill was signed into law, the NCAA released a statement stating that “this new law already is creating confusion for current and future student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses, and not just in California…. 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 law does not come into effect until Jan. 1, 2023. The delay is to allow the NCAA to make amendments to its rules and gives the state of California room to bring up future legislation in order to ensure that neither its schools nor athletes are penalized as a result of the bill.

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Birju Dhaduk

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