College Athletes Paid in California

The California State Senate recently passed the Fair Pay to Play Act, allowing college athletes to be paid for use of their name, image and popularity. 

On September 30, the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, signed the act into law. It will take effect in 2023.

The movement for college athletes to get paid began with O’Bannon vs. NCAA in 2009. O’Bannon was a star basketball player for UCLA and lead the team to the NCAA Division I championship in 1995. O’Bannon filed a lawsuit against the NCAA in 2009, arguing that division I football and basketball players ought to receive compensation for use of their name, image and popularity. It was ruled that the NCAA violated antitrust laws by not compensating student-athletes for being in modern broadcasts and popular video games. 

The Fair Pay to Play Act has received a great deal of support from celebrities, politicians and professional athletes. “To all the athletes who worked so hard to start this movement,” Lebron James tweeted. “we all owe you our deepest gratitude. #KingTalk.” 

But not everyone likes the idea of paying players who are not professionals. Riverside athletic trainer Sarah Bell pointed out pros and cons of paying student-athletes. 

“I think that there is value to playing just for the joy of playing,”  she said.  

Bell also explained that she doesn’t think that it’s right for colleges and other organizations to make huge profits off of the players backs when many of those players still live in poverty and don’t get any of the money. She speculates that there will probably be problems and we should wait to see how California deals with them. 

“It will be very complicated. Companies will probably just find loopholes in the beginning,” she said.

Riverside head women’s basketball coach Wendy Palmer, a former WNBA all-star and UNC-Greensboro head coach, offered a player’s point of view on paying college athletes. Although Palmer does support the Fair Pay to Play Act, she pointed out that most college-age student athletes don’t have the maturity to handle large sums of money coming their way from brand deals and such. 

Palmer was heavily recruited around the country to play basketball in college. She said that if the law had existed at the time, she would have considered leaving for California. Palmer also noted that college athletes have to train all year long. In her case, training would begin just two weeks after the season ended.  

“College athletes only have their own brand as a source of income,” Palmer said. “Between schoolwork and the intense training sessions, there is no time for any other job.”

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