Fair Pay to Play Act hopes to sport earlier implementation

By Elizabeth Casillas; April 13, 2021

California State Sens. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, released an amendment to SB 206, the Fair Pay to Play Act, to cover student-athletes no later than January 2022.

The original Fair Pay to Play Act was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019, allowing college athletes to receive payment for their use of name, likeness and image beginning in 2023. Current NCAA rules strive to make a clear distinction between college athletes and professional athletes, but this distinction leads to student-athletes missing out on paid opportunities and offers.

The NCAA claims Division I and II schools offer compensation to student-athletes in the form of scholarships: however, these scholarships are often not enough for students to fully pay for their education.

“You could just completely avoid college and just go pro if you’re really that good,” said graduate student Gerardo Flores, a thrower for CPP’s track and field team. “But then you lose out on having a backup plan and stuff like that.”

Other areas of college life do not have these same regulations.

“Other students in other disciplines can do it; they have the opportunity to use their name or expertise to earn extra money,” said CPP’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Brian Swanson. “I think student-athletes should have the same opportunity as their colleagues on campus.”

The News Record’s Owen Racer made a similar argument in a March opinion piece advocating that student-athletes should have the ability to receive payment in a similar fashion to the 60.8% of interns who were paid in 2019.

CPP Men’s Track and Field athlete jumping hurdle during the 2019 CCAA Championships. (Courtesy of CPP Athletics Department)

To combat this, in a 73-0 vote, the state assembly voted to make it illegal for California universities to cancel the athlete’s scholarship or eligibility if they receive payment for the use of their name, image or likeness. However, this does not mean that universities would be tasked with paying athletes, instead this means athletes can hire agents to find business deals for them.

The U.S. Department of Education has reported that out of the $14 billion revenue colleges receive from sports programs, only a fraction of that amount is returned to players. The NCAA has been known to reject petitions from current and former athletes who wish to receive compensation for their time as college athletes. They have also played a role in preventing students from receiving any third-party deals.

Global Sports Matters interviewed former international student-athletes, and part of the reason why players failed to understand and were compliant with university demands was due to the lack of knowledge surrounding NCAA rules for name, image and likeness as well as how Divisions I and II colleges function.

Division I schools are known to train and compete throughout the year, allowing little time for student-athletes to find internships or jobs outside of it. Division II schools, such as CPP, do offer a more balanced schedule for athletes with enough time to seek opportunities outside of their sport.

Because of the controversy surrounding college athletes, SB 206 has received plenty of support from people like LeBron James and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. However, a vocal opponent of this bill continues to be the NCAA.

CPP Women’s Track and Field athlete during the 2019 CCAA Championships. (Courtesy of CPP Athletics Department)

The NCAA believes SB 206 will cause an imbalance in college sports whereby California college-athletes will receive benefits athletes in other states do not, creating an unfair advantage in the recruitment process and the playing field. This could lead to California’s 58 NCAA schools being unable to compete.

On March 31, the U.S. Supreme Court heard NCAA v. Alston, a court case dealing with whether the NCAA should be allowed to place a cap on how much NCAA universities can compensate their athletes. The final ruling has not been decided, but a lower district judge ruled in favor of Alston, making this potential cap on universities illegal. The NCAA contested that this ruling would affect, and possibly tarnish, persevering sport amateurism and lead to future legislation chipping away at the distinction between college sports and professional sports.

“The NCAA talks about keeping student-athletes amateur and they’re worried about people taking advantage of this, like flat out paying athletes to come to that school or stay at that school,” said Chris Bradford, the head coach of CPP’s track and field team. “But I think that’s only a very small portion of how this will be used. Again, I think it’s time; I think this is something that needs to happen.”

The NCAA has already started adapting to growing support for student-athlete compensation and began working on adapting new rules to change the way student athletes use their name, image and likeness.

USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz reported that under new regulations student-athletes would be allowed to use their name, image and likeness for athletic and non-athletic business: however, schools would still have the right to veto deals if it conflicts with a preexisting sponsorship deal or NCAA guidelines.

California, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska and New Jersey have all passed laws to allow student-athletes to use their name, image and likeness for monetary gain.

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