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NCAA needs defensive plan as 3 more states look to follow California's college athletes pay law

Thomas Barrabi

Several states are exploring pathways to pay local college athletes after California legislators defied NCAA opposition to allow amateur players to sign endorsement deals.

"This is really just about fairness, ” South Carolina State Rep. Justin Bamberg told FOX Business Tuesday. He plans to introduce a bill in his state in January. Lawmakers in New York and Colorado also may follow California's lead with bills that would allow college athletes to earn money in the form of stipends or sponsorships based on their likeness.

The NCAA and its conferences have long opposed any form of income for student-athletes, arguing that bills such as the one California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law this week would unbalance the recruiting process and harm the spirit of amateurism.

California’s law also allows student-athletes to hire agents to explore potential endorsement opportunities. Newsom’s approval marked a turning point in efforts to fairly compensate college sports stars for on-field play that yields hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the NCAA and its partners, according to South Carolina State Rep. Justin Bamberg, who plans to co-sponsor a similar bill in January.

“You’ve got players who are losing eligibility, they’re getting kicked off the teams and stuff for accepting $50 in gas money from people,” lawmaker Bamberg said, “That’s just utterly ridiculous when it’s a multibillion-dollar industry and everybody else is cashing out on it."

Bamberg’s bill, co-sponsored by South Carolina State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, would allow the state’s colleges to offer $5,000 stipends to athletes in revenue-driving sports like football and basketball. As in California’s law, which takes effect in 2023, the South Carolina proposal would allow college athletes to sign endorsement deals without penalty.

New York State Sen. Kevin Parker submitted a similar bill that would approve endorsement deals and devote a portion of ticket-sales revenue for college athlete pay. In Colorado, State Senators Owen Hill and Jeff Bridges are planning to file a bipartisan bill similar to California’s law in January.

“As much as it pains me to admit, California got something right here,” Hill told FOX Business. “We tried last year to empower athletes and I won’t quit trying until Colorado allows athletes to benefit from their hard work and talent. I plan to introduce this bill in January as soon as the Senate starts the new legislative session.”

While the California law blocks players from signing endorsement deals that conflict with their university’s existing sponsorships, the NCAA has argued that any change to rules should occur at a national level to prevent unfair advantages in the recruiting process. The organization, which generated more than $1 billion in revenue for fiscal 2017, has vowed to fight the law.

The NCAA has said it is examining its own rules governing use of player likenesses for income, but Bamberg said the organization’s arguments against the practice amount to a “scare tactic.”

“As soon as that ink dried and the California governor signed that bill, that’s checkmate,” he added.

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