Student Athlete Compensation


Under SB 206, college athletes could sign paid sponsorship deals and hire agents without being penalized by their schools or the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The bill contradicts current NCAA rules, though it doesn’t allow schools to pay athletes a salary. Community colleges are exempt.


The National College Players Association, AFL-CIO and California Faculty Association support SB 206, which also drew endorsements from basketball players LeBron James and Draymond Green, and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Supporters call athlete compensation a civil rights issue, saying college players are being exploited and should be paid for the value they create. The bill is authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley Democrat.


The NCAA asked legislators to delay taking action until its own internal working group can address the issue, and then on Wednesday appealed directly to Newsom in a letter asking him to reject SB 206. The University of California, California State University and private colleges oppose the bill, fearing their teams could be shut out of NCAA championships.


College sports are a multi-billion-dollar industry. SB 206 sets up a showdown between California and the NCAA — but with an effective date of 2023, there’s also time for the two sides to come to an agreement.


Though the NCAA called the bill “unconstitutional” and asked Newsom for time to voluntarily revise its own rules on compensation, Newsom signed the bill Sept. 27, 2019, on an episode of James’ talk show that aired the following Monday, “Colleges reap billions from student athletes but block them from earning a single dollar. That’s a bankrupt model,” Newsom tweeted. But in his signing statement, he added that he’d review the NCAA recommendations in October, that the law has a three-year implementation window, and that he will “work constructively with the Legislature” to address any “unintended consequences” that arise from the bill.