State Senate Greenlights SB 206, The Fair Pay to Play Act

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Photo provided by Office of Senator Nancy Skinner

Senate Bill 206, The Fair Pay to Play Act, by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, won bipartisan support today and was approved by the state Senate on a 31-4 vote. SB 206 punches a hole in unfair rules that exploit college athletes and allow the NCAA, universities, TV networks, and corporate sponsors to pocket huge sums.

Under SB 206, California college athletes would be able to earn income from endorsements or sponsorships for the first time. It now goes to the state Assembly for consideration.

“The California Senate has spoken loud and clear: Student athletes should enjoy the same right as all other students — to earn income from their talent,” Skinner said. “SB 206 gives our college athletes the same financial opportunity afforded to Olympic athletes.”

For decades, young athletes have generated tens of billions of dollars for their colleges, corporate sponsors, and television networks. But athletes themselves have been shut out of the marketplace. At the same time, the vast majority of full-scholarship college athletes live at or below the poverty level.

“NCAA rules disproportionately harm students from low-income families,” Skinner added. “And they’re particularly unfair to female athletes, because for many young women, college is the only time they could earn income, since women have fewer professional sports opportunities than men.”

Under SB 206, all student athletes enrolled in public and private colleges and universities in California would be able to earn money from their name, image, or likeness (endorsement or sponsorship deals), starting in 2023. The Fair Pay to Play Act also prohibits California colleges and universities from enforcing NCAA rules that prevent student athletes from earning compensation. Receiving income would also not affect a student’s scholarship eligibility.

In addition, the Fair Pay to Play Act would bar the NCAA from preventing student athletes from earning compensation. And the legislation would prohibit the NCAA from banning California colleges and universities from intercollegiate sports if their athletes sign sponsorship deals. SB 206 would also allow college athletes to hire sports agents. And to ensure fairness, the bill would bar colleges and universities from signing high school students to sponsorship deals as a recruiting tool.

“SB 206 doesn’t require colleges to pay student athletes or incur any other costs,” Skinner said. “Instead, it will help relieve the financial pressure on young athletes to quit school and turn pro before they’ve completed their degrees.”

Sen. Nancy Skinner represents the 9th Senate District.