California to force NCAA to pay athletes

The NCAA is notionally an "amateur" league, but the only thing amateur about it is that the athletes (who risk their health and even their lives) are unpaid, while the universities effectively own and operate wildly profitable pro sports teams.

California state senator Nancy Skinner [D] has cosponsored the The Fair Pay to Play Act, which entitles California college athletes to get paid for "the use of their name, image and likeness." The bill -- popular with both labor activists and free market ideologues -- passed the Assembly on Monday 72-0. Governor Newsom is expected to sign the bill in the next 30 days, and it would go into effect in 2023.

The NCAA and the colleges that back it strongly oppose the legislation. Athletes like LeBron James strongly support it (and James has received public support from Bernie Sanders: "College athletes are workers. Pay them.").

The colleges say it spells the end of California's participation in collegiate sports, predicting that California teams will be excluded from national play (they don't mention the possibility that other states will pass legislation similar to California's).

Reducing the importance of college sports to America's universities would be a net positive; American higher-ed has been wildly distorted by sports, with budgets and resources allocated to sports as a way of making alumni happy, without regard to the actual educational priorities of the institutions.

Skinner expects opponents to mount court challenges during that time, but she also anticipates a growing corps of allies.

Similar bills are in their infancy in state legislatures in Washington and Colorado, and United States Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina, introduced a federal bill this year that would allow college athletes to be compensated for the use of their name, image and likeness.

Skinner sees her bill as a catalyst rather than an end unto itself.

California Lawmakers Vote to Undo N.C.A.A. Amateurism [Billy Witz/New York Times]

(Image: Ervins Strauhmanis, CC-BY, modified)

(via Naked Capitalism)