At a press conference held at the Pasadena Rose Bowl recently, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 252, called the College Athletic Protection Act. If the Legislature passes the bill, it will expand and reinforce protections for college athletes, says Holden, who also serves as Assembly Appropriations Committee chair.
“As a former college basketball player at San Diego State, I know how close you can come to an injury taking away not only the game you love to play, but also your opportunity to finish college,” said Holden. “So, we look at this bill as going further and establishing some important safeguards for athletes as they are out there enjoying what they love to do, but also getting a degree.”
In 2019, Holden introduced a similar bill, the college Athlete Civil Rights Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Newsom. That bill required schools in the state to inform student athletes about their rights and made it illegal for schools to retaliate against athletes who report the school for violations of any kind.
Holden represents Assembly District 41, where Pasadena, “The City of Champions,” is the political center. It is a town that prides itself on its appreciation for sports and the many accomplished athletes who have called the area home, including baseball great Jackie Robinson and several NFL players who have excelled in various sports and made it to the Super Bowl, according to the Pasadena Sports Hall of Fame website.
Holden described AB 252 as “comprehensive.” He told California Black Media at the Rose Bowl press conference, that it will require colleges to set aside $25,000 in tuition for athletes who are not fairly compensated annually to cover the cost of game-related injuries. It will also require that Division1 schools set aside 50% of sports revenue to pay athletes as well as make it easier to report abuses and inform their student athletes of their rights.
Holden says this bill comes with a builtin way to enforce it. A 21-member watchdog group, called the College Athletic Protection (CAP) panel, will oversee enforcement of the bill’s requirements and ensure that schools are reporting their athletic program’s finances. The board will have the power to enforce the provisions in the new bill and mete out discipline to violators.
The financial responsibility of the schools remains tied to annual revenue reports made to the United States Department of Education. For example, institutions reporting revenue over $20 million will pay for “out of pocket sports-related medical expenses” while colleges reporting over $50 million in revenue will also provide “nationally portable primary medical insurance” to each athlete, according to the language in the bill.
Ramogi Huma, the executive director of the National College Players Association, is a former football player at UCLA and has been a longtime advocate of college athletes. He was introduced by Holden as a “partner” in crafting the bill. Huma pointed out the difficulties faced by Black athletes and the exploitative nature of some of the NCAA rules, many of which were highlighted in a 2020 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which looked at basketball and football. It found that the system funnels funds away from Black and students from low-income backgrounds. Huma was quick to call the NCAA business model illegal using “amateurism” to “strip wealth” from Black athletes.
“The NCAA and its colleges do nothing about the trail of seriously injured, abused and dead college athletes. This unchecked abuse is not an oversight – it’s by design,” said Huma.
He referred to the bill as a step to ending what he characterizes as “exploitation” by the NCAA. The bill requires those students who are not receiving “fair market” value to have a graduation fund created for them every year which will apply to tuition – even if they can no longer play.
Making graduation a goal for student athletes, the bill’s supporters say, is pivotal because data shows many students are spending long hours training to the detriment of their education or forced to play with serious injuries for fear of losing a scholarship.