How Newly signed Fair Pay to Play Act will impact the future of UCR Athletics

Martin Lopez /HIGHLANDER

A new California bill will allow collegiate student-athletes to be paid for their name, image and likeness. This game-changing legislation comes after a long standing controversy over how much money is made from collegiate sports for some NCAA regulators and coaches while athletes themselves make nothing. Collegiate sports is a $14 billion industry, and for the first time, student-athletes will be given a chance to earn compensation.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act into law on Wednesday, Sept. 30, during an episode of NBA superstar LeBron James’ show “The Shop.” The law does not allow athletes to be paid directly by universities, but instead through endorsement deals with brands and businesses. Currently, the NCAA prohibits students from profiting from their image as athletes completely. 

NCAA President Mark Emmert responded to the signing of the bill with stern criticism. Emmert argued that the bill creates “a new form of professionalism” that stands to soil the current state of collegiate sports. “There is a choice every high school senior who plays sports should have to make. They can choose to be a college athlete. Or they can choose to be a professional. There is no room for both or the waters turn murky,” Emmert told the Indianapolis Star. Like Emmert, many people who are against the bill feel that the payment to student-athletes in the form of scholarships should be enough.

Many critics argue that there is a myriad of unintended consequences that come with the legislation. “The idea is progressive, but we need to slow down and make sure that we’re making the right decisions so that it will be equitable across the board,” said Athletic Director Tamica Smith Jones in an interview with The Highlander. 

Other states like Florida and New York are already working toward enacting similar legislation, and the competition to come out on top in the new sponsorship race will likely be tight. 

The law will not go into effect until 2023, but a whirlwind of speculation concerning how this will affect the NCAA and collegiate sports is causing people to question what is to come. UCR Athletics released an official statement about the bill: “We will continue to work in collaboration with our University of California, Big West Conference and peer institutions’ leadership, as well as our coaches, staff and student-athletes to identify solutions with respect to how we move forward over the next few years amidst the rapidly shifting landscape that is intercollegiate athletics.” 

While only time will determine how the NCAA will respond, the Fair Pay to Play Act has sparked a movement. All universities, athletes, brands and the NCAA can do now is adapt.