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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs Fair Pay to Play Act

On Monday, the California state bill that NCAA president Mark Emmert calls an “existential threat” to the organization he heads officially became a law.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act, which will guarantee the state’s college athletes the right to market their name, image and likeness, while appearing on LeBron James’ HBO show, Uninterrupted.

“Senate Bill 206 addresses an injustice in our higher education system,” Newsom wrote to the California State Senate announcing his decision to sign the bill into law. “Other college students with a talent, whether it be literature, music or technological innovation, can monetize their skill and hard work. Student-athletes, however, are prohibited from being compensated while their respective colleges and universities make millions, often at great risk to athletes’ health, academics and professional careers.

“Moreover, due to their demanding academic and athletic schedules, student-athletes are typically unable to work a part-time job to help make ends meet. This bill simply and rightfully allows student-athletes to benefit from the multi-billion dollar enterprise of which they are the backbone.”

SB 206 will not come into effect until Jan. 1, 2023, but it has already inspired copycat efforts in South Carolina, New York and another coming in Florida, not to mention bipartisan efforts in Washington to guarantee athletes their NLI rights.

The NCAA responded to the news with this statement: “We 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.”

The NCAA has already formed a working group to study this issue, but seems customarily dismayed that the California bill and others like it will push the organization off its preferred timeline. Which is entirely the point.