Sports

California governor signs law allowing college athletes to get paid, potentially upending amateur sports

Key Points
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed Fair Pay to Play Act, which will allow student athletes to get paid for the use of their name, image and likeness.
  • The bill will also allow students to hire sports agents.
  • The NCAA currently bans students from earning compensation through college sports.
Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Sept. 16, 2019.
Rich Pedroncelli | AP

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Monday allowing college athletes to get paid for endorsement deals — a move that defied collegiate athletic leaders who say the change could upend amateur sports.

The Fair Pay to Play Act will let students get paid for the use of their name, image and likeness. It will also allow them to get sports agents.

"Colleges and universities reap billions from these student athletes' sacrifices and success but block them from earning a single dollar," the governor said in a statement. "That's a bankrupt model — one that puts institutions ahead of the students they are supposed to serve."

The National Collegiate Athletic Association currently bans students from earning any kind of compensation through college sports. The organization said in a statement that it agrees changes are needed but that improvement needs to happen on a national level.

"Unfortunately, this new law already is creating confusion for current and future student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses, and not just in California," the NCAA said in the statement. "We will consider next steps in California while our members move forward with ongoing efforts to make adjustments to NCAA name, image and likeness rules that are both realistic in modern society and tied to higher education."

The organization's Board of Governors sent a letter to Newsom earlier this month saying that the bill "would upend level playing field for all student-athletes."

"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 said.

The NCAA appointed a working group earlier this year to consider changes to its policy.

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The bill gained attention from celebrity athletes such as basketball player LeBron James, who was with the governor on an episode of HBO's "The Shop: Uninterrupted" when he signed the bill.

The act was written by California State Sens. Nancy Skinner and Steven Bradford and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

"While our student athletes struggle to get by with basic necessities such as food and clothing, universities and the NCAA make millions off of their talent and labor," Bradford said in a statement. "College coaches are now some of the highest paid employees in the country because of the talented young men and women who play for them."

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Key Points
  • Former NFL player Patrick Kerney says he thinks college athletes deserve to be paid, but he offered up an alternative way to accomplish it.
  • Universities could "maybe contribute to a 401(k) for them, get them to understand the time value of money," he says.
  • Kerney earned an MBA from Columbia University after his NFL career and now works in the insurance industry.