In recent news, the controversial Fair Pay to Play act has been signed into law by California Governor, Gavin Newsom, on Monday, September 30. This law states that, “it is illegal for California colleges to deny their student athletes opportunities to gain compensation for the use of their names, images and likenesses.” To avoid any misconceptions, let’s go into the main points of how it will and will not affect California’s college athletes.
Should the law go into effect in January of 2023, the athletes of California colleges will be able to negotiate with third parties who wish to use their identities in any way, therefore gaining compensation. Currently, according to NCAA amateurism policies, college athletes’ images, autographs, and overall likeness can be used by the University in any way they deem fit in order to gain a profit. That profit will not reach the student athletes themselves. This fact has been previously debated in the court case O’Bannon v. NCAA, which resulted in the end of college sports being featured in EA’s video games series. On the other hand, this law does not involve athletic scholarships or the categorization of college athletes as employees. Which means that college athletes still cannot form unions.
With all this in mind, I cannot think of a valid argument against the institution of this law. As a former Division I college athlete, I gained a lot of skills and values from being on a successful and competitive team. But, even with these benefits, there were an equal number of burdens. My in-season schedule, which was a majority of the school year, involved: three hours of practice a day, three hour long lifting sessions a week, and two-day competitions almost every weekend. Even with this rigorous training schedule, my team was lucky that we could go home for many school holidays, while a number of teams have to continue training over fall, winter, spring, and summer breaks. With these time commitments it is almost impossible to get a job or gain experience for a post-graduate career. This does not include the debilitating injuries that I, and many other collegiate athletes, sustained in their sport. These injuries do not only affect their time as an athlete, but their well-being for the rest of their life. In addition, many student athletes do not have a full or partial scholarship, so the costs of attending the university is equal to their non-athlete counterparts.
Obviously, being a member of a collegiate team is a financial and physical hardship on the student, while simultaneously remaining an obstacle in the search for positions after graduation. If college athletes cannot be economically compensated for their time and labor, the least that can be done is other states following California’s lead and allowing for the individuals’ interests and rights to be prioritized above the institutions.