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State bill will expedite monetary protections for student athletes


Senate Bill 26, authored by State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-35) and Senator Nancy Skinner (D-9), and co-authored by Senator Scott Wilk (R-21) recently passed the California Senate after clearing the Assembly.

SB 26, known as the Fair Pay to Play Act 2.0, advances the effective date of the Fair Pay to Play Act in SB 206 (2019) from Jan. 1, 2023 to Sept. 1, 2021. SB 206 was the first law in the nation to give student athletes the right to compensation for their name, image, and likeness, allowing them to earn money from sponsorships, endorsements and other activities. SB 26 extends the protection of student athletes to include compensation for their reputation in addition to their name, image, and likeness.  SB 26 further expands entities covered under the Fair Pay to Play Act (SB 206, signed by the governor in 2019) to include the California Community Colleges.

“As a former athlete, a longtime coach in my community, and author of the groundbreaking SB 206, I am pleased to see continued bipartisan support on the issue of fair compensation for college athletes,” said Bradford. “The state and nation are now in solid agreement that students who generate millions and millions of dollars for universities should not have to struggle to purchase books, food, and have a place to sleep while others benefit from their talent and hard work. SB 26 is about bringing fairness and justice to the matter of compensation for college athletes faster by ending the modern day chattel slavery of college athletes than what we thought was possible when we started this fight and making sure we protect the civil right of a person to own themselves.”

Since the passage of SB 206, over 30 other states have initiated plans to introduce similar laws, about 17 states have enacted similar laws, and eight states had them going into effect on July 1, 2021 (including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, and Texas).

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA)’s Division 1 Council voted in late June to allow student athletes to earn money for autograph signings, personal appearances, endorsements, and social media platforms. In the 2017 fiscal year, the NCAA, which operates as a nonprofit organization, reported $1.1 billion in revenue.

Earlier in June, the Supreme Court ruled in National Association of Intercollegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, that the NCAA does not have blanket authority to deny the rights of college athletes when it comes to just compensation, and doing so would violate antitrust laws.  In Oct. 2020, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which includes 77,000 student athletes at mostly smaller schools, voted to let players earn money for public appearances and endorsements. Schools have already started to partner with companies to help athletes navigate the landscape of NIL.

“Changing the effective date of the Fair Pay to Play Act also helps with this year’s recruitment cycle and will put the upcoming fall class of student athletes on a level playing field with states that have a July 1st  implementation date,” said Bradford. “Additionally, a majority of college athletes will never play professionally, but while they play in college sports and are experiencing their 15 minutes of fame, they should be able to capitalize on their years of sweat, practice, and hard work.”

“California was the first state to challenge the NCAA’s monopoly stranglehold on student athletes. We sparked a national movement when we enacted SB 206, the Fair Pay to Play Act, two years ago,” Skinner said. “More than 25 states followed, giving student athletes the right to earn money from their name, image, and likeness. Collectively, we forced the NCAA to throw in the towel and abandon its exploitative NIL rules. And now California is taking the lead again by unanimously passing SB 26 to strengthen and accelerate the implementation of our NIL law.”

“SB 26 is a critical equity measure for student-athletes in community colleges. We are pleased to be leading a national trend towards recognizing that all students deserve the opportunity to be rewarded for their talents. The ability to be compensated for the use of their name, image, likeness, and reputation will help thousands of community college students afford the cost of college and address their basic needs,” said Pam Haynes, President of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. “We thank Senators Bradford and Skinner for their leadership on this critical effort.”

SB 206 authored by Skinner and Bradford, allows athletes to earn money using their name, image and likeness (NIL) without the compensation affecting their scholarship eligibility or ability to play sports. It also prohibits athletic associations, conferences, and others with authority over college sports including the NCAA from preventing students from using their NIL.

Before the law, the stance from the NCAA was that student athletes should only be allowed to receive scholarships and stipends for living costs, and that they should not financially benefit from their talents or fame.

SB 26 will next be sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature.