On Wednesday, the NCAA released a letter that it sent to California Gov. Gavin Newsom regarding California Senate Bill 206, which — if approved — would allow student-athletes to “earn compensation for the use of their name, image or likeness,” commencing on Jan. 1, 2023.
On Monday, the bill passed with a unanimous vote in the California State Assembly, which means it will go to Gov. Newsom.
The NCAA’s letter to Gov. Newsom is below:
The 1,100 schools that make up the NCAA have always, in everything we do, supported a level playing field for all student-athletes. This core belief extends to each member college and university in every state across the nation.
California Senate Bill 206 would upend that balance. 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. These outcomes are untenable and would negatively impact more than 24,000 California student-athletes across three divisions.
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.
The NCAA continues to focus on the best interests of all student-athletes nationwide. NCAA member schools already are working on changing rules for all student-athletes to appropriately use their name, image and likeness in accordance with our values — but not pay them to play. The NCAA has consistently stood by its belief that student-athletes are students first, and they should not be employees of the university.
It isn’t possible to resolve the challenges of today’s college sports environment in this way — by one state taking unilateral action. With more than 1,100 schools and nearly 500,000 student-athletes across the nation, the rules and policies of college sports must be established through the Association’s collaborative governance system. A national model of collegiate sport requires mutually agreed upon rules.
We urge the state of California to reconsider this harmful and, we believe, unconstitutional bill and hope the state will be a constructive partner in our efforts to develop a fair name, image and likeness approach for all 50 states.
Members of the NCAA Board of Governors
The state assembly’s approval of California Senate Bill 206 sets up a potential clash with the NCAA, which prevents student-athletes from being compensated for their name, image and likeness, and could fundamentally change the entire system of college athletics.
The existing law, specifically Education Code § 67360, “prohibits any person from giving, offering, promising or attempting to give money or other item of value to a student athlete or member of the athlete’s immediate family to induce, encourage or reward a student athlete’s application, enrollment or attendance at a public or private institution of higher education to participate in intercollegiate sporting activities.”
However, the bill, if turned into law, would flip that restriction on its head.
The following excerpts, which summarize the bill, are from the Senate Floor Analysis from Monday:
Prohibits any entity with authority over intercollegiate athletics from preventing a student athlete from receiving compensation for the use of their own name, image, or likeness. This bill provides that earning compensation through athletic endorsements shall not affect the student’s scholarship eligibility.
Prohibits any group with authority over intercollegiate athletics from preventing a postsecondary educational institution from participating in intercollegiate athletics as a consequence of that institution allowing its student-athletes to earn athletic endorsements.
Prohibits any entity with authority over intercollegiate athletics from preventing a student athlete from obtaining professional representation in relation to their college athletics, provided that the professional representation is in compliance with federal law and is performed by persons licensed by the state.
Under the “Comments” section of the Senate Floor Analysis, the authors argue that SB 206 allows student-athletes at California’s public and private colleges to earn income through endorsements, which wouldn’t require colleges to pay or employ athletes, therefore not putting a cost on the colleges.
“SB 206 also relieves the pressures to turn pro before graduating by allowing students to provide for themselves financially without facing loss of their athletic scholarship,” the authors wrote, which means the bill, if it becomes a law, could potentially have a tremendous impact on men’s basketball players, when you consider that 175 student-athletes filed as early entry candidates for the 2019 NBA Draft.
Theoretically, student-athletes who are second-round prospects or even fringe NBA prospects wouldn’t feel the same financial pressure to declare for the draft when they could have the option to stay in school and still earn an income.
Of course, we have a long way to go until this bill or the potential ramifications with the NCAA materialize.
The bill still has to be approved by Gov. Newsom, and it wouldn’t come into effect until the second half of the 2022-23 school year.
And for what it’s worth, the NCAA’s letter included that “NCAA member schools already are working on changing rules for all student-athletes to appropriately use their name, image and likeness in accordance with our values.”