A bill in California that would make it possible for college athletes to accept endorsement money moved one step closer to becoming law Monday evening. The California State Assembly voted 73-0 in favor of the proposed law known as the Fair Pay to Play Act.
The Fair Pay to Play Act would make it illegal for colleges and universities in California to take away an athlete's scholarship or eligibility as a punishment for that athlete profiting from his or her name, image or likeness. If passed, the new law would go into effect in January 2023.
The bill was introduced by state Senator Nancy Skinner in February, and it has received an overwhelming majority of support on its way through the legislative process. The state senate voted 31-5 to pass the bill in May. Because it has been amended since then, the bill now moves back to the senate for approval. If the senate votes in favor again, it will land on the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who can sign it into law.
California's senate is expected to vote on the amended bill in the near future, which would put it on pace to land on Newsom's desk some time before the end of September.
"To me, this is fundamental fairness," Skinner told ESPN in August. "California law basically gives each of us the right that no one can use my name, market my name or make money off of my name, or my photo, without my permission, or without sharing that revenue with me. The only people in the entire state of California for whom that is the case are student-athletes."
California schools and the NCAA have opposed the bill because it would make it impossible for those schools to follow the NCAA's amateurism rules. NCAA president Mark Emmert wrote a letter to legislators in May that said, in part, the proposed law might make it impossible for the NCAA to include California schools in national championship games if those schools were operating under a different set of rules. Skinner and other lawmakers in California interpreted Emmert's letter as a threat.
Emmert asked the state politicians to give the NCAA more time to consider making changes to the way it treats the name, image and likeness rights of student-athletes. The organization formed a working group to study potential modifications to its current rules. That group is scheduled to report its findings to the NCAA's board of governors at some time in October.
Skinner and others have argued that the NCAA has had plenty of time to reconsider its policies during the past decade amid a series of civil lawsuits dealing with similar issues. Skinner also noted that the NCAA hasn't acted since a commission headlined by Condoleezza Rice suggested last year that college athletes should be able to receive endorsement money.
"That was a commission that they themselves initiated," Skinner said. "I'd say, yeah, they probably need legislative pressure."
If the bill is signed into law by Newsom, the NCAA and other states will have three years to decide how to react. Proponents of the bill hope that the recruiting advantage that California schools would have if athletes in the state are allowed to make money will prompt other states to adopt similar legislation. Several other states already have considered similar laws. Mark Walker, a Congressman from North Carolina, also has proposed a federal law that would have the same effect.