Earlier this year, two California state senators introduced SB 206, much to the chagrin of NCAA bureaucrats. The bill, which is also known as the Fair Pay To Play Act, would allow college athletes to make money off of their own names, images, and likenesses starting in January 2023. The state Senate approved the bill last month, with a 31-4 vote with two abstentions, which means it will head to the California Assembly’s Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee for a hearing and vote tomorrow.
Naturally, the NCAA hates this, since its business model is based on denying athletes the right to profit from their own labor. One week before the Senate voted to pass the bill, the NCAA announced the formation of a working group “to examine issues highlighted in recently proposed federal and state legislation” regarding athletes being able to be paid for the work they currently do for free. If you were wondering whether that group would explore whether athletes should be paid, well, no.
With the bill making the rounds through the California legislature this month, NCAA president Mark Emmert reportedly wrote a letter to the chairs of two State Assembly committees, whining about the possible threat the bill’s passage would pose to his racket. His badgering has already prompted the bill’s authors to add language stating they’d monitor the results of the working group. In his letter, Emmert even threatened to ban California schools from NCAA championships if the bill was passed, because of the possible asymmetries created by paying only one state’s worth of athletes. Per USA Today:
“We recognize all of the efforts that have been undertaken to develop this bill in the context of complex issues related to the current collegiate model that have been the subject of litigation and much national debate,” Emmert wrote in his letter to the committee chairs. “Nonetheless, when contrasted with current NCAA rules, as drafted the bill threatens to alter materially the principles of intercollegiate athletics and create local differences that would make it impossible to host fair national championships. As a result, it likely would have a negative impact on the exact student-athletes it intends to assist.”
It is very in-character for the NCAA to moan about equal treatment and fret over a level playing field under the guise of protecting college athletes, when the most obvious systemic issue harming players is the existence of the organization itself. Emmert and the NCAA do not care about the welfare of the labor pool. Efforts to slow the bill down are transparently not about fairness; they’re about maintaining control. Emmert’s biggest fear is that other states will think this is a good idea.
Mark Emmert made $3.9 million in 2017. There’s no reason he should be paid to lie about the virtues of amateurism when his entire labor base works for free. California should make him follow through with the threat and pass the bill.