California lawmakers pass bill allowing college athletes to sign endorsement deals and profit from image and likeness

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On Monday the California State Assembly unanimously passed a bill that will allow college athletes to seek endorsements and profit from the use of their name, image and likeness.

Earlier this year, two California state senators introduced a bill known as the “Fair Pay to Play” Act. The State Senate approved the bill in June; this week it passed 72-0 in the Assembly, with seven members abstaining. Because the measure was amended after it passed the State Senate, it will need to return, although it is expected to pass, before heading to Governor Gavin Newsom. Should all parties pass the bill—or if Newsom decides not to vote—it will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

Under the bill, individual schools would not have to pay athletes. However, students could seek agents and representation for business opportunities without losing eligibility, similar to the framework for Olympic athletes. Students would also retain the rights to their name and image on apparel.

As of Tuesday morning, the NCAA has not commented on the matter. After the bill passed the State Senate in the summer, NCAA president Mark Emmert wrote that his organization would considering banning California schools from its championships should the act pass in its current form.

“We recognize all of the efforts that have been undertaken to develop this bill in the context of complex issues related to the current collegiate model that have been the subject of litigation and much national debate,” Emmert wrote to lawmakers. “Nonetheless, when contrasted with current NCAA rules, as drafted the bill threatens to alter materially the principles of intercollegiate athletics and create local differences that would make it impossible to host fair national championships. As a result, it likely would have a negative impact on the exact student athletes it intends to assist.”

However, Emmert, no stranger to controversy, has seen a wave of opposition from the likes of NBA superstar LeBron James and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, both who tweeted out support of the bill.

“College athletes can responsibly get paid for what they do and the billions they create,” James said. “California can change the game. This is only right waaaayy overdue.”

Added Sanders: “College athletes are workers. Pay them.”

There are 23 Division I schools in the Golden State, four of which belong to the Pac-12, one of the “power five” NCAA conferences. In May, the Stanford men’s golf team won its ninth national championship.

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