California governor defies NCAA, signs law allowing college athletes to profit from endorsements

California Gov. Gavin Newsom defied the NCAA on Monday, signing a law that would allow college athletes in the state to be paid beginning in January 2023.

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The Fair Pay to Play Act, sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will allow college players to be compensated for their name, image and likeness, the The Sacramento Bee reported. The bills would make it illegal for California's universities to revoke scholarships from students who accept endorsement deals, the newspaper reported.

The law does not require schools to pay athletes directly, ESPN reported. In addition to allowing players to profit from selling their name, likeness or image to outside bidders, the law allows college athletes to hire a licensed agent to represent them, according to the network.

Newsom signed the bill on an episode of the talk show "The Shop," accompanied by NBA star Lebron James, the WNBA's Diana Taurasi and former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The episode was recorded Friday but released Monday, a spokesman for Newsom’s office told the newspaper.

“It’s going to initiate dozens of other states to introduce similar legislation,” Newsom said on the show. “And it’s going to change college sports for the better by having now the interest finally of the athletes on par with the interests of the institution. Now we are rebalancing that power.”

Under current NCAA rules, players are prohibited from accepting any compensation from outside sources, ESPN reported.

The NCAA sent a letter to Newsom in September, calling the bill "unconstitutional" and "a scheme," the Times reported. The letter was signed by NCAA President Mark Emmert and 21 other members of the organization's board of governors.

“Right now, nearly half a million student-athletes in all 50 states compete under the same rules,” the letter said. “This bill would remove that essential element of fairness and equal treatment that forms the bedrock of college sports.”

In a statement Monday, the NCAA said it was concerned about individual states creating their own rules for college athletes, the Times reported.

“As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide,” the NCAA said in its statement.

James called the new law a "game-changer," the Times reported.

“Athletes at every level deserve to be empowered and to be fairly compensated for their work, especially in a system where so many are profiting off of their talents," James said "Part of the reason I went to the NBA was to get my mom out of the situation she was in. I couldn’t have done that in college with the current rules in place.”

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