SACRAMENTO – California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) this week won approval of her legislation to create the nation’s first body overseeing the health and safety of college athletes. Assembly Bill 1435 was approved by the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports and the Internet on a vote of 5-2.
“The NCAA has forfeited its responsibility to keep players safe, and too many colleges and universities have forfeited our trust when it comes to player safety. I have introduced the Athlete Protection Act to do the job that the NCAA and too many campus administrators have utterly failed to keep players safe,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher said. “No parents should ever lose a child because a school valued winning a game more than they valued the health of a college athlete.”
A number of high profile tragedies have underscored the epidemic of brain injury in professional and college sports. In 2013, NFL linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide. An autopsy linked his suicide to brain injuries received during his football career. A year later, the death of his USC teammate Scott Ross was similarly linked to brain damage sustained during his career. According to the Mayo Clinic, the damage that can be caused by repeated concussions can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a condition marked my mental deterioration, memory loss, emotional instability and suicidal thoughts and behavior.
AB 1435 creates the Athlete Protection Commission and gives it the power to enforce health and safety standards for college athletes. The Commission will have full investigatory powers, including power of subpoena. The Athlete Protection Act grants whistleblower protections to any students or staff who come forward to report abusive or illegal practices, and gives the Commission the authority to suspend or outright ban employment for coaching, training and medical staff who are found to be in violation of health and safety rules for players.