California Gov. Looks to Change Direction of College Sports

Nick Holt, Staff writer

The NCAA and student-athletes have been battling for years over fair compensation and still have never come to an agreement.  But now, California governor Gavin Newsom  is changing the course of history.

On Sept. 30, Governor Newsom signed the California Senate Bill 206, also known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, allowing student-athletes to accept money for endorsements from outside companies, without their scholarship and/or eligibility being annulled, effective 2023.   The bill also gives the students the opportunity to hire an agent and to be paid for the use of their personal likeness.

Taking an unusual approach, Governor Newsom joined Lebron James on his talk show, “The Shop,” to sign Bill 206, getting opinions from various important athletes and personalities such as businessman Maverick Carter, Agent Rich Paul, WNBA Star Diana Taurasi, UCLA Gymnast Katelyn Ohashi, and former NBA forward Ed O’Bannon, who is famously known for his fight with the NCAA in 1995.

Ohashi, having recently graduated in 2019, after a decorated gymnastics career at the University of California, Los Angeles, spoke on the misconception of famous student-athletes. “I mean there’s the fame but then there’s no compensation,” Ohashi said. “It’s so crazy, like people are like oh you must be so rich…but no one pays attention to that, like no one understands it. So when my routine went viral, Mark Emmert (CEO of the NCAA) called me to like congratulate me, I’m like you should be thanking me.”

Unfortunately, Ohashi isn’t the only student-athlete that has been exploited by the NCAA and people are taking notice. Basketball player, R.J. Hampton, a 6’5″ point guard from Little Elm, Texas, is trying to change that narrative by forgoing college altogether, and taking an alternate route.  Hampton had offers on the table from Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Memphis, but chose to take his talents out of college and play for the New Zealand Breakers of the NBL, a professional basketball league in Oceania.

With the choice made to bypass college, Hampton gained the ability to sign with an agent, receive numerous endorsement deals, and gain professional experience.  Hampton’s base contract will net him more than $100,000, which is aside from his newly signed 5-year contract with Chinese sportswear company, Li-Ning, certainly making a case that college is a waste of time for players of his status.

Though the new bill passed by Governor Newsom should make the option of going overseas much less inciting, the support the bill is receiving from other big names such as Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke provides hope the bill will spread country wide, giving every student-athlete the opportunity to take advantage of its privileges.

Not everyone is in agreement with Governor Newsom.  Big Ten commissioner, Jim Delaney, disagreed with the Fair Pay to Play Act.

“I really don’t see much difference, myself, between name, image and likeness payments by a corporate sponsor or pay-for-play…so it’s a belief system I have,” Delaney said. “I think the law of unintended consequences and the law of slippery slope apply here.”

Of course CEOs and commissioners such as Emmert and Delaney aren’t going to be on board – these are the very people who are benefiting from the current system.  Regardless of the fact that the players and coaches all are in support of the California Senate Bill 206, the “big guys” don’t seem to care about the amateur athletes’ well being. Their goal is all about the money.