Governor Newsom Signs Bill Allowing College Athletes to be Paid

Last Monday on Lebron James’ HBO Show “The Shop,” California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill enacting major athletic reform in the state. Senate Bill 206 (SB 206) prohibits the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from barring an institution the ability to compete in an event if athletes are paid for their names and likenesses. The bill passed through the California Legislature unanimously.

Previously, young athletes on the college level were unable to receive financial compensation for their athletic talents. Advocates of the bill believe this will open doors for student athletes, particularly those of poor backgrounds.

Many proponents agree: for too long, big-name universities have been able to profit off young athletes without those athletes receiving compensation.

Although this conversation has been underway for some time, the recent explosion of college superstars like Duke University’s Zion Williamson has added fuel to the fire. The men’s basketball phenomenon caused Duke’s viewership to skyrocket. According to ESPN, seven of the 10 most viewed games of the men's season featured Williamson and company.

In an article entitled “The Business of Zion,” Sports Business Journal writer Michael Smith focuses on the impact stars like Williamson are having on college sports culture. 

“The Blue Devils [have] the highest-priced resale ticket in the game, averaging $329, according to SeatGeek,” Smith said. “Kentucky ranks a very distant second with an average of $132 for resale.”

When Williamson - the 6-foot-7, 245-pound first overall pick in this year’s NBA draft - took his show on the road, other universities spiked their prices a whopping 194 percent above the season average.

Duke reportedly saw increased ticket revenue, a dramatic jump in jersey sales, and a noticeable growth in donations to its athletic department with Williamson in the program. All the while, Williamson didn’t receive a penny.

When he announced and signed the bill on “The Shop,” Newsom received praise from all in attendance, including Los Angeles Lakers forward Lebron James and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green. However, not all are in favor of the move.

The NCAA has voiced its negative opinion on this legislation. In a same-day press release, the NCAA stated, “As more states consider their own specific legislation related to this topic, it is clear that a patchwork of different laws from different states will make unattainable the goal of providing a fair and level playing field for 1,100 campuses and nearly half a million student-athletes nationwide.”

The association believes that by signing this bill, unfair advantages may be offered in certain states that could restrict the development of athletic programs in locations that have not yet passed similar bills.

Furthermore, California schools - including the UC system, the Cal State system, Stanford, and USC - publicly oppose the bill.

Governor Newson has left time for negotiations with the NCAA for the next three years, when the bill goes into effect, but the clock is ticking. 

Many Santa Monica College (SMC) student-athletes believe Newsom’s legislation is a step forward for California. Men’s water polo player Diego Hernandez says, “[athletes] are going to be more motivated,” because, “this opens more opportunities for them.”

“The Corsair” reached out to the governor's office for an interview regarding SB 206, however we did not receive a response before the date of publication.