As the NCAA prepares to take baby steps toward letting college athletes earn money from their names, likenesses, and images, California may force the organization’s legs.
Via Melody Gutierrez of the Los Angeles Times, the California Senate has passed a bill that would allow college athletes to earn money from endorsement deals without losing their amateur status, in the same way that Olympic athletes can leverage their fame to get paid while still competing as non-professionals.
The bill passed the 35-person Senate by a vote of 31-4. It will eventually be considered by the California Assembly.
“Olympic athletes are also considered amateur, so this does not professionalize our college athletics and may in fact result in encouraging some of our students to stay in school rather than the motivation to go pro early because it’s the only way to earn an income,” said Senator Beverly Skinner (D-Berkeley), the sponsor of the bill.
Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) was more blunt, and colorful.
“These men and women put butts in seats of arenas and stadiums all across the country and the universities make millions of dollars selling their jerseys and other paraphernalia . . . but these athletes benefit not one dime,” Gardena said. “This is a civil rights issue. This is a fairness issue.”
Opponents are concerned that the bill, if it becomes a law, could get California universities excluded from the NCAA. Which means that opponents who actually think the NCAA would exclude the likes of USC, UCLA, Stanford, and Cal from the NCAA should look a little harder for a more plausible basis to mount an opposition.
The time for giving college athletes the opportunity to get fair value for their talents, efforts, and sacrifices has come. Actually, it arrived several years ago. Those who profit from those students simply are trying to delay the day of reckoning for as long as possible, while they continue to misappropriate billions that get paid, only indirectly and in a small fraction, to those who generate it.
And, sadly, it seems to be working. Hopefully it won’t work much longer.