NEW YORK — For years, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has prevented college athletes from getting paid while they play for their schools.
But a scholarship may no longer be enough for the services of student athletes. California is leading the way with a new law that would allow athletes to profit while they play, and New York could be next.
Instead of drawing up X’s and O’s, Gov. Gavin Newsom is crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s on California’s Fair Pay bill.
Newsom’s signature makes California the first state to allow college athletes to profit off their likeness.
He signed the bill on HBO’s “The Shop,” which is produced in collaboration with NBA star LeBron James. James has supported the bill from the beginning, even though he went straight from high school to the NBA.
“If I would have went off to any one of these big time colleges where pretty much that 23 jersey would have gotten sold all over the place without my name on the back, but everybody would have known my likeness,” James said during a press conference.
The NCAA Board of Governors sent a letter calling foul on the idea, saying, “the bill would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics.”
But the NCAA, a non-profit, has a $2 trillion TV deal and last year alone reported more than $1 billion in revenue.
“There’s more than enough for them to share,” said New York State Senator Kevin Parker.
Parker is following California’s lead by proposing a similar bill in New York.
Like California, Parker’s bill would allow athletes to profit off of their own likeness by selling autographs and signing shoe deals, but under his proposal New York would be the first state to require institutions to split revenue with the players. Athletes would share 15% of any profits made by the schools.
“Whether you’re the quarterback on the football team or you play on the women’s field hockey team,” Parker said.
The NCAA says that only about 20 of its more than 1,000 schools actually profit from their athletics departments. It’s a number that’s been hotly contested. However, Senator Parker says larger colleges and universities throughout New York State will be just fine contributing to their athletes.
“No school over time is losing money,” Parker said. “I am sure that Syracuse is going to be fine. Some of these other schools, St. John’s and Fordham and Hofstra are going to do fine with this bill in place.”
Some argue that an athletic scholarship is payment for student athletes, but it can only be applied to tuition.
The NCAA prohibits athletes from working while their sport is in season, so students say it only makes sense they should be compensated for their effort on the field or court.
“They need extra time to go to practice and all that, so I think the extra money would help them,” said Brooklyn College student Kenley Stvil.
Parker’s bill still has to be approved in Albany, and the NCAA is expected to challenge the California law in court. So a student athlete getting a check is still far from a slam dunk.