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Volume 26 No. 60
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California Fair Pay Bill Moves On Despite NCAA's Request To Postpone

California lawmakers do not believe the NCAA would actually ban state schools from championships

College athletes in California are a "step closer to being able to make money from the use of their names, images and likenesses," after a state committee passed a bill that would "fundamentally change" how the NCAA conducts business, according to Fenno & Gutierrez of the L.A. TIMES. The California Assembly’s Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism & Internet Media Committee yesterday passed the Fair Pay to Play Act, which "now moves to the Higher Education Committee." While the bill would "not allow schools to directly pay athletes, athletes would be able to receive compensation from outside sources." The bill advanced "despite a letter from NCAA President Mark Emmert last week urging the committee to postpone considering it and warning of dire consequences if it proceeded." The proposed legislation "prohibits the NCAA from banning a university from competition if the athletes were compensated." If the bill is "passed by the Assembly and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Fair Pay to Play Act would take effect Jan. 1, 2023." Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott wrote to the committee earlier this month "asking the bill be delayed until the NCAA group had studied the matter" (L.A. TIMES, 6/26). California State Sen. Steven Bradford said, "I heard what he (Emmert) said and to me it sounds like nothing more than a threat. California’s a big state with a lot of powerful sports teams. I can’t see them playing championships without those schools" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 6/26).

CALLING THE BLUFF: In DC, Sally Jenkins notes Emmert has "suggested all of California’s postseason competition could be jeopardized if the state allows an athlete to make a profit from his or her own name, picture or signature." Emmert is "so concerned by the bill that he sent lawmakers a letter with more than a smack of extortion in it." The only thing the bill would "materially alter is the reach" of Emmert’s power and the "bottom-line profits at those ducal estates Emmert presides over." Emmert is "bluffing, and California should call him on it." Emmert’s threat to "excise the entire left coast reeks of pure desperation and is in no way realistic" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/26). In Atlanta, Michael Cunningham writes Emmert "clearly is bluffing." California lawmakers "should call him on it if they really are looking out for the interests of athletes." It is not likely the NCAA "would ever tell its television partners that it won’t play big games or have Power Five schools in the country’s second- and eighth-largest media markets." Emmert’s "empty threats reek of desperation" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 6/26).

LET THE BATTLE BEGIN: ESPN’s Jason Fitz noted California is "proud of the fact they seem to be ahead of the NCAA in their minds," though it could set up a "massive legal battle. Fitz: "North Carolina has now proposed a very similar bill, so we will now have two major areas coming in and saying, ‘NCAA, we don't care about your rules'" (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 6/26).In Ohio, Mark Podolski writes Emmert can "hide behind the NCAA rules on amateurism that are in place," but those rules ring "hollow when billions are made on March Madness alone." Podolski: "The implication the NCAA might ban California colleges if this bill becomes a law makes Emmert and Co. look even worse" (Willoughby NEWS-HERALD, 6/26). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said “this seems like a game of ‘Chicken’ now” between the NCAA and the state of California. ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser: “I don't think you can have an NCAA where state's rights say we can pay you over here, but we can't pay you over here” (“PTI,” ESPN, 6/25).