NCAA: California SB 206 will 'upend balance' in college sports

Sept. 12 (UPI) — The National Collegiate Athletic Association warned California Gov. Gavin Newsom that the “essential element of fairness and equal treatment” in college sports would be erased if he signs into law legislation that will allow collegiate athletes to sign endorsements and hire agents.

The NCAA’s board of governors sent the warning in a letter Wednesday, urging the state to reconsider “this harmful and, we believe, unconstitutional bill.”

On Wednesday, the State Senate voted 39-0 in favor of SB 206, better known as the Fair Pay to Play Act. On Monday, it passed the State Assembly 72-0. It will now go to Newsom’s desk for his signature.

The bill, introduced by state Sens. Nancy Skinner and Steven Bradford and supported by basketball superstar LeBron James, will make it illegal for California postsecondary schools, athletic associations or leagues to prevent collegiate athletes from receiving compensation for the use of their name, image or likeness. It will also make it illegal to prevent them from securing professional representation. The bill will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

“This law is a GAME CHANGER,” James tweeted to encourage support for SB 206. “College athletes can responsibly get paid for what they do and the billions they create.”

The NCAA said it opposes the bill as it would create an imbalance within the sport. The bill gives the 58 NCAA schools in California an unfair recruiting advantage while making them ineligible to compete in NCAA competitions, the governors said.

The NCAA strives to create a level playing field for collegiate athletes and SB 206 “would upend that balance,” the board of governors said.

“Right now, nearly half a million student-athletes in all 50 states compete under the same rules,” the letter to Newsom said. “This bill would remove that essential element of fairness and equal treatment that forms the bedrock of college sports.”

Ohio State President Michael Drake, who is on the NCAA board of governors and a signatory to the letter sent to Newsom, told USA Today that the NCAA may pursue a legal challenge to the bill.

“We’ve looked at this very, very carefully and it does raise constitutional challenges,” he said. “So, that’s something that would be looked at.”

Skinner, in a statement Wednesday, cheered the bills passing as it will bring an end to the “exploitation of student-athletes by the multibillion-dollar college sports industry.”

“SB 206 doesn’t force colleges to pay; it simply opens the door for athletes to earn money just like any other student, whether it’s monetizing YouTube videos, teaching swim lessons or accepting sponsorship,” she said.

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