California governor signs ‘Fair Pay to Play’ bill to allow college athletes to profit off of their name and likeness

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the controversial “Fair Pay to Play” act, giving college athletes the opportunity to get paid based off their name and likeness.

The bill does not allow athletes to be paid by the university directly with a salary. Endorsement deals that go against the school’s branding is also prohibited. The bill is slated to go into effect in 2023.

The signing was announced and published to social media on Monday on a segment from NBA superstar Lebron James’ show “The Shop.” James tweeted the video, saying that the bill will “change the lives” of athletes that “deserve it.”

James, who skipped college to enter the NBA Draft, has been a strong advocate for the bill.

The NCAA has since responded to the signing by saying that they “will consider next steps in California while our members move forward with ongoing efforts to make adjustments to NCAA name, image and likeness rules that are both realistic in modern society and tied to higher education.” 

Their statement also went on to say that “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.”

Previously, the NCAA sent a letter to Newsom when the bill was proposed earlier this year saying that the 52 sanctioned colleges in the state were at risk of losing their NCAA eligibility if the bill was passed. The organization has not released a statement on the possibility since the bill was signed into law.

Controversy has already consumed the California schools and the Pac-12 Conference because of the bill. Pepperdine Athletic Director Steve Potts told The Wall Street Journal that he doesn’t “want to put our student athletes in a position where they’re not allowed to compete at the highest level.” 

The Pac-12 released a statement Monday morning disavowing the bill.

“The Pac-12 is disappointed in the passage of SB 206 and believes it will have very significant negative consequences for our student-athletes and broader universities in California,” the Pac-12 said in their statement. 

“This legislation will lead to the professionalization of college sports and many unintended consequences related to this professionalism, imposes a state law that conflicts with national rules, will blur the lines for how California universities recruit student-athletes and compete nationally, and will likely reduce resources and opportunities for student-athletes in Olympic sports and have a negative disparate impact on female student-athletes.”

The conference went on to say that they continue to lead student-athlete reform, but “firmly believe all reforms must treat our student-athletes as students pursuing an education, and not as professional athletes.”

Notable California schools in the conference that would be affected by the bill include UCLA, USC, California-Berkley, and Stanford. Those schools account for a third of the schools in the conference.

ESPN’s Tom Luginbill said the “kids are going to go where the money is,” which is a recruiting controversy the bill could spur.

The “Fair Pay to Play” act will continue to bring new story-lines as more information is released. As of now, the NCAA has not punished California schools, but the threat is still on the table.