One of the biggest points of criticism by students every year is the university’s treatment of student athletes in an exploitative manner. While perhaps unintended, the NCAA prohibits college athletes from making money off of their name, image, and likeness (NIL) the way Olympic and professional American athletes do, and as a result athletes can be left feeling barren. Even working for this magazine we know that we can’t reach out directly to an athlete for a quote, we have to go through the athletic department’s communications personnel because they’re such a commodity.
As a result, movements spreading awareness of student athlete hunger, homelessness, and mental health have been discussed more and more in our online circles. Student athletes have a voice to spark change and have been doing so for some time now, with examples from the past five years alone.
The point is that if athletes play for colleges in an attempt to make it big nationally, what choices do they have when they make it to the end of four years with no real professional development, no pro-team offer, and no money saved up?
That’s where this river of a debate lets out in open water today. California senator, Nancy Skinner, proposed a bill back in February that would change the game for college athletes in the state of California and their relationship with the NCAA starting in 2023. The California State Assembly voted unanimously 73-0 this past week in favor of the Fair Pay to Play Act. This law, if signed by Governor Gavin Newsom within the next 30 days, will allow college athletes to make money off of their NIL similar to the way Olympic athletes do. Universities will not be required to pay their athletes any more, but should the NCAA not update their standards to allow for compensated opportunity of athletes by 2023, it would be illegal for collegiate Californian athletes to follow the rules of the NCAA, and therefore be barred from competing in national events.
There is a familiar face on the NCAA Board of Governors making these decisions: Ohio State president Michael Drake. His take on the issue is that it’s smarter for the NCAA to tackle the problem nationally instead of state-by-state, but history has shown that sometimes legal pressure sparks change in the NCAA, so perhaps this is the catalyst that could bring on those optimistic national regulations.