On Monday, September 30, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 206, or the “Fair Pay to Play Act” into law, a bill passed unanimously in both houses of the State Legislature. The law makes it illegal for colleges to stop student athletes from receiving compensation for their name, likeness, and image, contrary to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules. Many professional athletes have shown their support for the law, including Los Angeles Laker LeBron James, who tweeted, “This law is a GAME CHANGER.” LeBron is right. The law will be a game changer, but for all the wrong reasons.
SB 206 was written because many think that college athletes are unfairly restricted by NCAA rules, which prevent athletes from doing any sort of profitable activity relating to their sport, including pretty harmless things such as putting on a youth summer camp or selling autographs. Assemblyman Kevin Kiley said that under the NCAA’s stringent policies, “NCAA athletes can’t make a little money over the summer coaching youth sports, can’t promote their social media, can’t model athletic wear.” SB 206 will do much more harm than good when it goes into effect in 2023. Put yourself in the shoes of a coveted high school athlete, trying to decide which school you will attend. Do you choose a college in one of the other 49 states, where NCAA rules are still in effect and players can’t receive endorsements, or do you choose one of the many colleges in California that is now forced to allow endorsements? I would guess that a large majority of these high school athletes will choose to play for a school in California
Now, you may be wondering why this is a problem. Won’t this just benefit colleges in California and turn them into sports powerhouses? And won’t it be completely legal because of SB 206? The answer to both of these questions is sort of. Yes, this recruiting advantage could theoretically help colleges in California develop better teams and perform at a higher level, and yes, it will be legal due to SB 206. However, since these schools will not be following NCAA rules, and will have an unfair advantage over schools outside of California, the NCAA would most likely not allow these colleges to compete anymore in the interest of having fair competitions.
NCAA president Mark Emmert sent letters to the State Legislature and Governor Newsom. In the letters, he said the bill “likely would have a negative impact on the exact student-athletes it intends to assist,” and that it “would result in [schools] being unable to compete in NCAA competitions.” Emmert is completely correct about the unintended consequences of SB 206.
Yes, California had good intentions with this law, trying to help athletes get paid for their talent and hard work. But in reality, the student athletes are the ones who will have to pay.