Redefining “Fair”: A Fourth-Quarter Look at California’s Fair Pay to Play Act | Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law

California is one quarter away from a potentially game-changing decision in the battle for collegiate athlete compensation, as the state senate is set to vote on the Fair Pay to Play Act this week. Initially proposed in February by Senators Nancy Skinner and Steven Bradford, the Fair Pay to Play Act proposes to allow NCAA athletes to “earn compensation as a result of the use of the student’s name, image, or likeness” from third-party licensing deals and prevents collegiate institutions from revoking an athlete’s scholarship for choosing to do so. Upon state senate approval, Governor Newsom will have thirty days to decide the financial fate of California’s collegiate athletes.

The bill quickly gained attention and support from household names like Lebron James and Bernie Sanders, as well as irritation from collegiate monopolies like the NCAA. Not only did NCAA president Mark Emmert threaten to bar California universities from playing in national championships if the Act is enforced, the NCAA also asked the California state senate to deny the Act and allow the NCAA to handle this issue independently on a national scale. The NCAA claims that the bill will create an unfair recruiting advantage in favor of California universities and that the NCAA is in the best position to handle the conflict. The California legislature, however, is hoping to use its political pressure to spur the NCAA into action. Other states, like Washington, Colorado, Maryland, and North Carolina, are already looking to add fuel to the fire by discussing similar legislation.

Earlier this year, the NCAA Board of Directors assembled a group of significant parties in the matter to discuss an evolution of the NCAA’s laws, and they expect a recommendation by the end of the year.

If enacted, the Fair Pay to Play Act will not go into effect until January 1, 2023. This temporal gap will likely provide enough time for the NCAA to propose their own rules that will satisfy California and level the playing field across the nation. If the NCAA does nothing to update their compensation regulations, college athletes will have to wait a few years until they get to decide whether they would like to potentially make money or compete for a national championship.

Jonathan Burks

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