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Commentary: Fair to Play Act makes it fair to play in California

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Joey Matsuzawa, Sports Editor

Joey Matsuzawa, Sports Editor

The California Senate took a step in the right direction when it voted to pass Senate Bill 206 Sept. 9.

Introduced by State Sen. Nancy Skinner, the Fair to Play Act would allow college athletes in California to pursue endorsements and profit from their name, image, likeness and memorabilia, and it would prohibit the NCAA from penalizing or sanctioning the player for this.

If signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the bill would take effect in 2023.

The unanimous vote created lots of buzz in the sports industry, with athletes and politicians alike voicing their approval of the bill.

“Everyone is California- call your politicians and tell them to support SB 206! This law is a GAME CHANGER. College athletes can responsibly get paid for what they do and the billions they create.” said NBA superstar Lebron James in a tweet.

Never one to shy away from voicing his own opinions, Golden State Warrior Draymond Green also tweeted out in support of the bill.

“California!!! Extremely excited about the bill that passed tonight allowing players to be paid. Finally, we are making some progress and getting this thing right. Kids going to sleep hungry, can’t afford ANYTHING yet these Universities are profiting off those same kids. SIGN IT!!” Green said in his tweet.

College sports is a $14 billion industry, with the NCAA raking in over $1 billion in revenue last year, with controversy over player salaries spanning decades.

In 2006, USC star football running back and Heisman trophy winner, Reggie Bush, as well as basketball player O.J. Mayo, were found to have been accepting lavish gifts from sports agents during their time at USC.

For Bush, these gifts included new suits and limousine rides to the Heisman ceremony and NFL Combine, all in addition to a rent-free home for his family to stay at while he was away at school.

Although Bush and Mayo would go on to play in the NFL and NBA respectively, the NCAA placed heavy sanctions on USC, that included forfeiting their next season, being stripped of over 30 scholarships and were barred from postseason competition with Bush also deciding to forfeit his Heisman trophy.

Later, in 2009, former UCLA men’s basketball star Ed O’Bannon filed a federal lawsuit against the NCAA, for using his likeness from UCLA’s 1995 Championship team in their NCAA Basketball ‘09 video game without his knowledge or consent.

Though the trial lasted until 2014, the court eventually ruled in favor of O’Bannon, stating that the NCAA’s practice of barring payment to student athletes violated antitrust laws.

Then in 2015, the NCAA began allowing schools to pay some of their full-scholarship athletes a cash stipend ranging from $2,000-$5,000, meant to cover food, entertainment and other student expenses.

But for many student athletes this is a trivial payout.

The NCAA preaches its claims of free education for its athletes, but this is only half true. Yes, elite athletes like Andrew Luck, who graduated from Stanford with an engineering degree off of a full-ride scholarship, do have other options after their college football career, but many others are not as fortunate.

According to the NCAA, fewer than 2% of college athletes go on to play professionally. Essentially, these players play for free for their four years then that’s it. They have close to nothing upon graduating. All while the NCAA, a non-profit organization, profits off them.

The NCAA recently aired their grievances with the bill in a letter addressed to Newsom, pleading for him to veto the bill.

“If the bill becomes law and California’s 58 NCAA schools are compelled to allow an unrestricted name, image and likeness scheme, it would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics and, because it gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage, would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions,” said the NCAA Board of Governors in its letter to Newsom.

These veiled threats show how dire of a situation this has become for the NCAA, as its grip over college sports has slowly begun to slip, and the bill’s sponsors know it.

“I just want to say, ‘NCAA, don’t threaten California. Don’t threaten us’,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, State Sen. Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D–Los Angeles, according to USA Today. “Because we have formidable schools. We have formidable alumni. And we have formidable viewership. And we can leverage those things until 2023, when this bill takes effect. I’m sick of being leveraged by the NCAA on the backs of athletes who have the right to their own name and image.”

Once the bill reaches Newsom’s desk if it is passed by the State Legislature, he will have 30 days to sign or veto it, otherwise it will become law.

It’s time for the sun to set on the NCAA empire.

Joey Matsuzawa, a senior communications major, is sports editor for the Campus Times. He can be reached by email at joe.matsuzawa@laverne.edu.

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