California Governor Gavin Newsom Signs Fair Pay to Play Act Into Law

In a ground-breaking move that could change the entire landscape of college athletics, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed California Senate Bill 206 — also known as the Fair Pay to Play Act — which makes California the first state to allow student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.

The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023, giving the NCAA and its member schools in California several years to plan for the change.

Newsom announced the signing of the bill into law with a tweet, which shows him on LeBron James’ HBO show “The Shop.”

“I don’t want to say this is checkmate, but this is a major problem for the NCAA,” Gov. Newsom says on “The Shop” in a room that also includes James, rapper J. Cole, professional basketball player Diana Taurasi and former UCLA men’s basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who was a plaintiff in O’Bannon v. NCAA.

“It’s going to initiate dozens of other states to introduce similar legislation, and it’s going to change college sports for the better by having now the interests, finally, of the athletes on par with the interests of the institutions.”

New York Sen. Kevin Parker and Florida House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee have recently proposed similar legislation.

With California now having a law that will allow student-athletes to get paid for their name, image and likeness, and a couple other big states — in terms of population, political influence and college athletics — moving in that direction, it could only be a matter of time until the tide shifts completely in favor of student-athletes being able to earn compensation for their name, image and likeness.

The signing of California Senate Bill 206 comes weeks after the NCAA publicly released a letter to Gov. Newsom after the bill passed unanimously in the California State Assembly.

The NCAA Board of Governors wrote that the bill “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 NCAA released another statement on Monday in response to Gov. Newsom signing the bill:

As a membership organization, the NCAA agrees changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA’s rules-making process. Unfortunately, this new law already is creating confusion for current and future student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses, and not just in California.

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.

As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide.

The Pac-12 also released a statement expressing its disappointment in Gov. Newsom signing the bill:

The Pac-12 is disappointed in the passage of SB 206 and believes it will have very significant negative consequences for our student-athletes and broader universities in California. This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports and many unintended consequences related to this professionalism, imposes a state law that conflicts with national rules, will blur the lines for how California universities recruit student-athletes and compete nationally, and will likely reduce resources and opportunities for student-athletes in Olympic sports and have a negative disparate impact on female student-athletes.

Our universities have led important student-athlete reform over the past years, but firmly believe all reforms must treat our student-athletes as students pursuing an education, and not as professional athletes. We will work with our universities to determine next steps and ensure continuing support for our student-athletes.

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