NCAA urges California governor not to sign ‘fair pay’ bill

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The NCAA Board of Governors wants California Gov. Gavin Newsom to reject a new attempt to pay college athletes.

And it is prepared to take the fight to court if necessary.

In a six-paragraph letter released Wednesday, the board urged Newsom not to sign the legislation known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, which would allow college athletes to be paid for the use of their names, likenesses and images. The move comes two days after approval of the measure by the California Assembly, with the state Senate expected to consider the measure later this week.

The board warned that California schools may be declared ineligible for NCAA competition if the bill becomes law because they would have an unfair recruiting advantage.

“We’ve explored how it might impact the association and what it might do. We believe it would inappropriately affect interstate commerce,” Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief operating officer and chief legal officer, told The Associated Press. “It is not intended to be a threat at all. It’s a reflection about the way California is going about this.

“I’m not saying there will never be a day we would consider that (legal action), but it is not meant to be a threat,” Remy said.

The board is especially concerned because the bill puts no restrictions on how much athletes could make. The Indianapolis-based NCAA said the measure would impact more than 24,000 athletes in the nation’s most populous state.

Should the bill pass, Newsom would have 30 days to sign or veto it. If he does nothing, the bill would become law. It would be the first measure of its kind and the outcome is being closely watched as one of the biggest challenges in years to the NCAA’s longstanding and far-reaching model of amateur sports. Over the past decade, that model has come under increasing pressure—and attacks in court—as critics push for big-time college athletics to clear the way for the athletes themselves to benefit financially.

NCAA rules prohibit athletes from profiting off their athletic skills. The organization, however, has recently begun considering rules changes to loosen those restrictions, though NCAA President Mark Emmert—and the board again on Wednesday—insist that players cannot be paid or become the equivalent of a university employee. Formal recommendations are expected to be made at the board’s October meeting.

It appears there is an appetite for significant changes.

“The rules that we operate under, many of which date to 1975, may not be suitable for us in 2021 with the challenges and opportunities student-athletes face,” said Denis McDonough, an NCAA board member and the White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama. “So we are and have been taking a very close look at how we can modernize those rules. We’re hoping the state of California would recognize that modernizing those rules for student-athletes across the country is the best way to do that.”

Board members met with the working group studying these issues in August but neither McDonough nor Remy would discuss specific proposals.

The NCAA believes the California measure would violate the federal Commerce Clause and may not withstand a legal challenge; Remy cited a previous case in California in which the state tried to inhibit the NCAA from enforcing its rules. The NCAA won that case.

Should the measure pass, Remy said, the NCAA would penalize the schools, not individual athletes.

“There are two parts to this and part of this is the membership and that includes the California schools,” Remy said. “Schools and universities agree to comply with the rules of (NCAA) membership and there are a set of eligibility criteria that go along with being member institution. The California schools have consented to that criterion. So in that context it would be the schools that would directly impacted.”

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3 thoughts on “NCAA urges California governor not to sign ‘fair pay’ bill

  1. Political entities, especially state governments should not control or try to control what are essentially private organizations. The schools that are in the NCAA are there voluntarily. They either subscribe to the rules or they don’t. Members either subscribe to the rules or they can choose not to participate.
    Any athlete that does not want to subscribe to the rules of the schools they attend and the NCAA, of which they belong, don’t have to go to that school or participate in the NCAA activities.
    Should the rules be looked at and somewhat updated, sure but wholesale abandonment of those rules would result in chaos on a scale so massive as to destroy sports in this country. Maybe that is the intent here not the plight of some student athletes who feel cheated. In the case of players that have the ability to attract sponsorship should, if they accept it, then be require to pay fees to the NCAA and member schools for their appearing in and enjoying the benefits of that exposure. National exposure is worth millions. If some athletes want to be paid then maybe they need to pay back what they owe the NCAA and the member schools.

  2. The dirty little non-secret is that NCAA and member schools turn a blind the true inability of certain student athletes to do college level academic work and fail to ensure that these same student athletes are progressing toward a college degree. Not surprisingly it is the sports that these same athletes play (football and basketball) that generate 95% of the revenue that the NCAA, Conferences and member school receive. The NCAA receives revenue from not only these players’ performances in games but also from apparel and video game manufacturers who use the names and likenesses of these athletes. The fact is that these are not student athletes but rather uncompensated professional athletes. Just like professional athletes, these athletes’ participation in their sports produce substantial revenues (billions of dollars) but unlike professional athletes they are not compensated in proportion to their ability to generate revenue. The jig is up and the NCAA is scrambling to keep the golden goose laying eggs for free. But just like professional athletes who were for decades denied unrestricted free agency. The NCAA, Conferences and member school are going to have to soon begin to share the wealth. As it should be.

  3. How dare California do this, this will take money away from the NCAA and all the high paid executives. All that money the NCAA makes off the backs of these college students is sickening.