On Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act into law. The bill permits college athletes in the state to hire agents and be paid for endorsements. For the first time, student athletes will be allowed to promote products and companies and financially benefit from their college sports activities. The legislation bypasses an National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) ban on players receiving any compensation aside from scholarships. Current NCAA regulations disallow student athletes from executing any endorsement deals or accepting payment for the use of their images. The new California law, which is scheduled to go into effect in 2023, would now allow them to reap the financial rewards for their athletic abilities. It would also bar the NCAA from retaliating against the colleges and student athletes.
The NCAA has a lot at stake. The organization realized over $1 billion in revenue and profits of about $27 million in 2018. The NCAA—along with college sports conferences—are fighting this law, arguing that it will bring chaos to college sports and “and make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field,” according to an NCAA statement. Sports economist Andy Schwarz, a supporter of the California law, asserts that college sports are already uneven and “the belief that talent is fairly evenly distributed across the country is blatantly false.”
There are former college athletes, such as Tim Tebow, who believe that college should be about following your dreams and contributing to an institution, as opposed to a means of making some money.
In an interview with ESPN, Tebow said, “If I could support my team, support my college, support my university, that’s what it’s all about. But now we’re changing it from ‘us’…from being an alumni where I care, which makes college sports special, to then okay it’s not about ‘us,’ it’s not about ‘we.’ It’s just about ‘me.'” Tebow added, “It changes what’s special about college football. We turn it into the NFL, where who has the most money, that’s where you go.”
We have sat on the sidelines watching college football, basketball and other sports—ignoring what’s really happening. Top universities earn fortunes from the work of unpaid kids. The monies generated are a significant part of many college’s revenues. The student athletes do all the hard work, damaging their bodies, risking concussions, losing out on study time and the schools reap billions of dollars off of them. While everyone else seems to profit, student athletes are left out without any compensation. We all view superstar athletes in the NFL, NBA and MLB and believe that college athletes too will reap large rewards when they graduate and become professional athletes. However, the sad and cruel reality is that the ones who make it big are the exceptions. Most athletes don’t become multimillionaire professional athletes. Many appreciate their college careers, but are unable to continue in the major leagues. It seems reasonable and fair to afford remuneration for the people who are actually doing all the work, which generates profits for the schools. If this law is not overturned, it will be a game changer.