Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on Tuesday that would effectively start to give NCAA student athletes compensation if their name, image, or likeness is used.
Senate Bill 26, authored by Senators Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), moves up the start date of SB 206, legislation first passed in 2019 that said that California universities and athletic conferences would begin to start paying NCAA student-athletes for image and likeness use, from January 2023 to September 1, 2021. In addition, the moved-up date allows student-athletes under SB 206, also known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, to immediately start earning money from the use of their athletic reputation. Students earning money under the provisions also receive protections under the bill, such as not being removed from teams or having a scholarship taken away in retaliation because of compensation.
California Community Colleges will also be covered by SB 206 under the new bill, with all athletes also being allowed to identify what school they attend as part of promotional materials.
SB 26 was written primarily to remove any confusion on when student-athlete compensation would begin due to the NCAA changing their own rules on student-athlete compensation in late June. State lawmakers did not want student-athletes in California to miss out due to the NCAA’s acceleration of change, especially with many other states awaiting their own compensation law start dates, such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and New Mexico laws taking effect first on July 1, 2021, necessitating SB 26.
“California for the win – again!,” said Senator Skinner in a press release on Tuesday. “We were the first state to grant college athletes the right to earn money from their name, image, and likeness with SB 206, the Fair Pay to Play Act, two years ago. And we sparked a national movement against the NCAA’s exploitation of college athletes, with more than 25 states joining our cause. Thank you, Gov. Newsom, for signing SB 26 and continuing California as the standard bearer for protecting student athletes’ rights nationwide.”
California for the win — again! Thank you, @GavinNewsom, for signing #SB26 into law so that the Fair Pay to Play Act will take effect tomorrow (9/1)! CA college athletes now have full rights to earn money from their talent & hard work.#PlayersGetPaidhttps://t.co/jw27OSsBaS
— Nancy Skinner (@NancySkinnerCA) September 1, 2021
Her co-author, Senator Bradford, also celebrated the bills’ passage, pointing out the need for student-athletes to receive compensation due to financial struggles.
“Today’s action to expedite the Fair Pay to Play Act into law effective Sept. 1, 2021 is proof that our political system is an important one for undoing the vestige of slavery,” added Senator Bradford. “There should be no place in our state where young, hardworking, and talented people are denied the fruits of their labor and are left struggling to purchase books, food, and have a place to sleep while others benefit from their talent and hard work. I am grateful to Gov. Newsom for his continued support on the issue of fair compensation for college athletes. Not only did the governor facilitate the end of the chattel system in college sports for California when he signed SB 206 in 2019, his actions in support of the bill that Sen. Skinner and I authored became the catalyst for change that has reverberated throughout the nation.”
Unanimously passed with bipartisan support
Like the SB 206 Assembly and Senate votes two years ago, SB 26 passed unanimously with strong bipartisan support. The 36-0 Senate vote and 73-0 Assembly vote also helped influence Governor Newsom to sign the bill as soon as possible and to meet the September 1st start date outlined in the bill.
“California led the charge against the unjust power imbalance in college sports, launching a national movement and spurring long-overdue changes in this multibillion-dollar enterprise,” said Governor Newsom after signing on Tuesday. “I’m proud to build on our leadership with today’s legislation to expand and protect our college athletes’ rights to reap the rewards from their sacrifices and success. I thank Senator Skinner and Senator Bradford for their tireless work to advance this fundamental matter of fairness and equity.”
Athletic experts were not surprised by the bills passage on Wednesday, with many noting that the bill was just having California keep up with the effects that their own law brought.
“California gave that 2023 start date a few years ago as sort of way to help give the NCAA time to figure things out and to have other states join in,” explained sports agent Armand Duffy to the Globe on Wednesday. “They didn’t realize just how quickly they were ready to approve things. Sure, states like New York and Florida were itching to pass their own laws quickly, but other states were vowing not to do this. The NCAA also infamously dragged their feet on this issue for decades. Now, two years later, California is now a bit behind the Joneses, so this was only natural.”
SB 26 is now active as of Wednesday, with many other states who had not previously signed compensation legislation or had a similar later start date like California quickly coming up with new legislation of their own.