California accelerates NCAA athlete pay law to take effect Wednesday

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Law 26 on Tuesday, postponing the implementation date of California’s Athlete Pay Act from January 1, 2023 to September 1 | Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday evening that he had signed a bill accelerating the timing of California’s college athletes bill, putting it into effect on Wednesday instead of 2023.

The Golden State’s Fair Pay to Play Act, a nation’s first bill signed in 2019 along with the NCAA and professional athletes, allowed student athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness, which was banned until recently due to strict amateur rules. Since California law went into effect, other states and even the NCAA itself have followed suit.

“California has led the charge against the unjust power imbalance in college sports, launched a national movement, and pushed long overdue changes in this multi-billion dollar company,” Newsom said in a statement. “I take pride in building on our leadership in today’s legislation to expand and protect the rights of our college athletes to reap the fruits of their sacrifices and success.”

Newsom signed Senate Bill 26 on Tuesday, postponing the implementation date of California’s Athlete Pay Act from January 1, 2023 to September 1. State lawmakers wanted SB 26 to go into effect immediately so that the state’s colleges and universities would not be confused by the temporary suspension of NCAA rules against name, image, and likeness compensation.

Without California law going into effect, state universities could develop their own rules, according to Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), one of the authors.

State pressure, with California taking the lead and Florida, New York, and New Jersey rapidly building up, led to the collapse of this longstanding NCAA policy. The organization’s unanimous vote last fall came after more than a decade of complaints and simmering cynicism about the status of student athletes – who earn nothing while their colleges and coaches get rich.

SB 26, written by Sens. Skinner and Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), received unanimous votes in both houses of the California legislature in August. The measure would also apply the Fair Pay to Play Act to the state’s community colleges and expand athletes’ compensation to the revenue from their athletic reputation.

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