The state of California is directly challenging the NCAA, passing a bill to permit college athletes to earn money from endorsements. The NCAA had warned that it might ban California athletes from its events if the bill were passed.
The California state Senate passed the bill unanimously. The Wall Street Journal noted it “allows college athletes to earn money from their name, image or likeness, through sponsorship or endorsement deals, starting in 2023. The bill also bans schools from preventing athletes from getting compensation or retaining agents.”
On Wednesday, the NCAA Board of Governors wrote to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, asserting:
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.
In June, after the bill had passed the state Senate in May, NCAA President Mark Emmert wrote a letter to the chairs of two California State Assembly committees, decrying the bill. He stated:
We recognize all of the efforts that have been undertaken to develop this bill in the context of complex issues related to the current collegiate model that have been the subject of litigation and much national debate. Nonetheless, when contrasted with current NCAA rules, as drafted the bill threatens to alter materially the principles of intercollegiate athletics and create local differences that would make it impossible to host fair national championships. As a result, it likely would have a negative impact on the exact student-athletes it intends to assist.
Jeffrey Kessler, who is aiding athletes suing the NCAA over compensation rules, dismissed the NCAA’s warnings, saying, “One, I think it’s very unlikely that the NCAA would want to exclude some of its most prominent members from competing. Two, if it did, I am sure those conferences and schools would file an antitrust challenge … based on the fact that the NCAA would be organizing a group boycott.” He added, “If I had to predict the future, I think that the California legislation will become a standard that probably all the Power Five conferences will be allowed to adopt before 2023.”
On Wednesday, NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy said the bill was unconstitutional, pointing out that courts have heretofore sided with the NCAA over the issue.
Interestingly, the California legislature said that California State University, Stanford University, the University of California and the University of Southern California have opposed the bill. The Journal explained:
Stanford’s statement said that its athletic programs, like others, had agreed to the NCAA bylaws, with which the bill directly conflicted. USC said the bill would “encourage students to violate the NCAA bylaws, becoming athletically ineligible and putting athletic teams and athletic departments at risk.” The school cited penalties levied against its athletic program in 2010 after an investigation into rules violations in football, men’s basketball and women’s tennis.
Newsom gave a clue as to whether he will sign the bill, commenting on Tuesday, “LeBron James supports it for a reason; let’s leave it at that.”