The NCAA is a lot like Death Row Records.
Sure, the fanfare is intoxicating, but at the end of the day you don’t own shit, you make no money, and quite literally everybody is caking off your hard work but you. However, player empowerment has become en vogue in the NBA and thankfully, has begun to trickle down into the collegiate ranks.
In 2015, the NCAA had to cough up $44 million in attorney fees after former UCLA Bruin Ed O’Bannon gave them the finger for using his likeness in broadcasts and video games without being compensated, and in recent years would-be college superstars like LaMelo Ball, Darius Brazley, and RJ Hampton opted to either play overseas or lock in million-dollar internships with big-name brands like New Balance.
“We’re talking about a system here that has been broken for a long time,” Rich Paul, Klutch Sports co-founder and Brazley’s agent, said on ESPN’s The Jump. “These kids and the families need options. And for me, I come from the athlete’s side where I’m always trying to find out, ‘How do I do what’s best for the athlete?’”
The tide is clearly turning, and that became even more evident on Wednesday when California passed a bill that allows college athletes to earn income from the use of their names, images, and likenesses, according to the Los Angeles Times.
On Monday, the state assembly voted 72-0 in favor of the bill’s passage and on Wednesday, the state Senate passed the measure with a unanimous 39-0 vote. Gov. Gavin Newsom now has 30 days to either sign or veto the bill, and should he decide to allow college athletes to run their coins, SB 206 will officially go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
So there’s our happy ending, right? Not so fast.
The NCAA wants no parts of cutting any of their student-athletes a check and warned Newsom that doing so is “unconstitutional,” “harmful,” and threatens to jeopardize the sanctity of amateur sports.
“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,” the letter to Newsom said. “Right now, nearly half a million student-athletes in all 50 states compete under the same rules. This bill would remove that essential element of fairness and equal treatment that forms the bedrock of college sports.”
And of course the Pac-12 conference—home to UCLA, USC, and other powerhouse programs—co-signed the NCAA and has begged the state legislature to pump the brakes.
“I fear the distinct possibility of a scenario where California schools could be expelled for willful breaking of NCAA rules,” Long Beach State athletic director Andy Fee told the LA Times.
But California state Sen. Nancy Skinner sees through the bullshit and is ready to fight for what student-athletes rightfully deserve: a slice of that multi-billion dollar pie.
“The NCAA has repeatedly lost anti-trust cases in courts throughout the nation,” Skinner told the LA Times. “As a result, threats are their primary weapon.”
Assemblyman Kevin Kiley also took the time to break down just how crippling and unfair the current status quo truly is.
“Forget shoe deals and video games,” he said. “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, can’t accept groceries or help with rent or equipment. When a line in the sand is enforced obsessively, excessively and to the point of absurdity, that’s usually a sign it doesn’t belong there.”
Truer words have never been spoken.
The NCAA’s gotta run that check and it’s time to institute policies that are both practical and fair to all parties involved.