by Ben Jansen
The state of California is no stranger to landmark cases regarding the National College Athletic Association (NCAA). In 2014, a California state court ruled against the NCAA, forcing the association to pay reprimands to players whose image and likeness were used in EA Sports video games, ending the gaming series. Now the state has the chance to change how we view amateurism in sports forever.
On Wednesday, Sept. 11, the California Senate unanimously passed a bill that would allow NCAA athletes in the state to earn money from their name, image, and likeness. Senate Bill 206, better known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, also protects student athletes by requiring them to sign with an agent, which would provide protection against revoked scholarships and altered contracts.
However, in the world of sports, nothing this large happens without controversy. Just one day after the State Senate passed this bill, the NCAA wrote a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom stating that the bill could actually wreak havoc on the state’s athletic programs.
In the letter the NCAA said they fear that “if the bill becomes law, the line between professional and mateur will become blurred. If so, the organization will have no choice but to prohibit California’s 58 NCAA schools from participating in future competitions.”
The NCAA isn’t the only organization that holds this opinion, as many universities are also against the bill. The University of Southern California, which has one of the largest athletic programs in the NCAA, released a statement supporting the NCAA’s stance. “The proposed California law would encourage student-athletes to violate NCAA bylaws relating to amateurism and receiving outside compensation,” the university said in a statement.
While the universities and NCAA share the same stance, the bill has split coaches and former players into two groups: supporters and those who are against the bill. Tim Tebow, Heisman Trophy winner and NCAA national champion, prior to pursuing a career in professional baseball, went on a long rant about the bill on ESPN’s “First Take” TV show.
“I feel like I have a little credibility and knowledge about this, because when I was at the University of Florida, I think my jersey was one of the top-selling jerseys around the world. It was like Kobe, LeBron and then I was right behind them. And I didn’t make a dollar from it, but nor did I want to because I knew going into college and what it was all about. I knew going to Florida, my dream school, where I wanted to go, the passion for it, and if I could support my team, support my college, support my university, that’s what it’s all about,” said Tebow.
He continued on his tirade saying, “But now we’re changing it from ‘us’, from ‘we’, from ‘my university’, from being an alumni where I care which makes college football and college sports special, to then, ‘OK, it’s not about us. It’s not about we. It’s just about me.’ And yes I know we live in a selfish culture where it’s all about us but we’re just adding and piling on to that where it changes what’s special about college football. We’ve turned it to the NFL, where who has the most money, that’s where you go.”
The problem with Tebow’s rant, however, is that he comes from an extremely privileged background, growing up the child of two pastors and being homeschooled. He doesn’t relate to the majority of NCAA athletes that come from a background where they don’t have the luxuries Tebow grew up with.
Dez Bryant, a former football player at Oklahoma State University who was later drafted and played in the NFL, responded to Tebow via Twitter. Bryant posted a tweet that said “Tim Tebow. I have to disagree, I’m going to passionately express this as a person coming from experience… The majority of these kids come from poverty. Trust me, it’s not all about ‘me, me, me’ for many of them… its about putting food on the table in broken homes. What percentage of college athletes actually play at the professional level,” said Bryant.
Bryant continued in a second tweet, drawing on his own life experience as a reason why this bill needs to pass. The second tweet reads, “Not to mention the multitude of opportunities unevenly handed out to certain players because of privilege… Accessibility doesn’t come to everyone… My parents and grandparents never even thought about college, by the way, I don’t even know my dad or his family. My mother was 14 when she had me…Tim Tebow I’m not coming at you, but I want you to know the other half and that your opinions are very singular.”
NCAA coaches also have differing opinions, and show understanding from both sides of the coin as an NCAA athlete. University of Connecticut football coach, Randy Edsall, said, “I hope every state passes the bill. I hope the governor in California signs the bill, and I hope more states join in. I wish Connecticut would do something about it.”
Across the country at Washington State University, football coach, Mike Leach, has a drastically different opinion. At a press conference, Leach said, “The state of California has trouble keeping their streets clean right now. So my thought is they probably ought to focus on that first.”
However it seems that more state legislators are siding with Edsall, Bryant, and the athletes, as Kevin Parker of New York has brought a bill similar to California’s to the New York State Senate. There is still a ways to go before this has any real impact, as the governor of California is still yet to sign the bill.
If Governor Newsom does in fact sign the bill, it will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2023.
Ben Jansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org