October 21, 2019

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California Bill Would Allow College Athletes to Keep Amateur Status While Securing Marketing Opportunities

The opportunity for college-level student-athletes in California to take advantage of potential marketing opportunities while still maintaining their amateur status could soon become a reality.

A report from the National College Players Association and Drexel University Sports Management Program concluded that 82 percent of full-scholarship athletes who live on campus and 90 percent of full-scholarship athletes who live off campus live at or below the federal poverty level. Members of the California legislature reacted by introducing SB 206, which would allow student-athletes at all 24 public and private colleges and universities that participate in Division I to secure financial remuneration by being paid directly from private or commercial sources for the unique value of their name, image, or likeness while still performing as a student-athlete.

The proposed legislation expressly restricts the NCAA’s ability to prevent student-athletes from participating in any such marketing opportunities.

The Fair Pay to Play Act, introduced by California State Senate Majority Whip Nancy Skinner, would prohibit a California public postsecondary educational institution, athletic association, conference, or any other organization with authority over intercollegiate athletics from preventing student-athletes from earning compensation in connection with the use of the student-athlete’s name, image, or likeness. Specifically, any such compensation would not affect a student-athlete’s scholarship eligibility. “Public postsecondary educational institution” means any campus of the University of California, the California State University, or the California Community Colleges.

Commenting on SB 206, Senator Skinner stated, “For too long, college athletes have been exploited by a deeply unfair system. Universities and the NCAA make huge amounts of money from TV deals and corporate sponsorships of their teams.” She continued,

“Athletic talent has value, and college athletes deserve to share in that value. The Fair Pay to Play Act allows athletes to finally be compensated for their hard work — work that generates billions of dollars for their schools, corporate sponsors and media networks.”

The Act would not add any specific costs to university athletic budgets. In fact,

the proposed legislation is completely cost neutral to the higher education institutions.

Student-athletes would be able to use their unique position to secure financial rewards while still performing at an amateur level and assuming all of the risk of season-long or career-ending injury. The bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Steven Bradford added, “This is more than a sports issue. This is a civil rights issue about basic fairness. For decades, young athletes have been generating billions of dollars for their colleges, universities, and corporate sponsors, but many are not only enduring the daily challenges as collegiate athletes, they are also struggling just to get by financially. It is time to right this historic wrong.”

Second Author: Iciss R. Tillis

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2019

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About this Author

Gregg E. Clifton, Collegiate Sports Attorney, Jackson Lewis, disciplinary hearings Lawyer
Office Managing Principal

Gregg E. Clifton is Office Managing Principal of the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as one of the editors of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major...

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