Fair Pay to Play bill now in governor’s hands after unanimous state Assembly vote
Senate Bill 206 would grant student-athletes in California the ability to profit off their own name, image and likeness. The bill directly contradicts NCAA rules and sets up an impending legal battle between the state and NCAA president Mark Emmert. (Daily Bruin file photo)
By Sam Connon
September 10, 2019 9:09 am
Just one hurdle remains in Senate Bill 206’s journey to becoming a law.
SB 206, also known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, passed by a unanimous 72-0 vote in the California State Assembly on Monday. If it passes, the bill would grant student-athletes at California universities the ability to profit off their name, image and likeness.
Gov. Gavin Newsom now has 30 days to either kill the bill or sign it into law.
NCAA rules currently prohibit student-athletes from making any money or profit outside of a scholarship, restricting access to sponsorships, endorsements and agents. SB 206 directly opposes these bylaws, but the NCAA may have trouble restricting the bill should it become law.
NCAA president Mark Emmert wrote a letter to California lawmakers in June urging them to not pass the law, alluding to action that could bar UCLA, Stanford University, USC, UC Berkeley and others from NCAA events if they allow athletes to get paid. With one abstention, the bill unanimously passed the California State Assembly’s Committee on Higher Education less than a month after the letter.
However, the NCAA’s ability to follow through on Emmert’s threat is not particularly strong, says Forbes senior writer and sports law contributor Marc Edelman.
Language in the bill specifically restricts California universities from limiting their student-athletes from signing with agents or sponsors. The NCAA, on the other hand, would face strong antitrust laws if the organization attempted to shut it down.
State and federal laws have priority over NCAA rules, so Emmert’s amateurism rule would not stand above SB 206. Edelman claims that – based on its past rulings on antitrust cases – the Supreme Court would likely frown upon the NCAA attempting to put a private company’s bylaws above those of an elected governing body.
Prior to Monday’s vote, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen both urged people to support the bill on social media. Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green celebrated the bill passing Monday night.
SB 206 – which Democrat Sens. Nancy Skinner and Steven Bradford initially brought to the state Senate in February – would not make individual universities responsible for paying their student-athletes.
If Newsom signs off on the bill, it will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.