California Assembly passes bill that brings state to verge of rules showdown with NCAA

Monday, September 9, 2019

The California State Assembly on Monday overwhelmingly passed a bill that would allow college athletes to more easily make money off their own name, image and likeness, beginning Jan. 1, 2023.

The vote -- initially posted as 66-0, but later shown as 72-0 with 7 not voting -- all but assures that the measure will go to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

Because the bill was amended after it had passed the State Senate, it will have to return there for a concurrence vote that could come as early as Tuesday, according to the office of Sen. Nancy Skinner, the bill's sponsor. However, the Senate approved its version of the bill by a 31-5 margin, and the bill’s basic intent remains unchanged.

If the legislation reaches Newsom’s desk, he will have 30 days to sign it or veto it. If he takes no action, the bill becomes law.

Although an NCAA panel is studying potential changes in the association’s policies regarding athletes’ names, images and likenesses, this sets up the prospect of a conflict between the NCAA’s amateurism rules and the laws of a state that has more than 20 Division I schools, including four members of the Pac-12 Conference.

Monday's vote came at the conclusion of discussion on the Assembly floor that was stunning in the context of the rest of the body's work during the day. Grinding through scores of bills that had virtually no opposition — and generally were voted on after brief comments by one sponsor — the Assembly spent more than 20 minutes on this bill. And six members rose to speak on the matter.

"I didn't know we had so many people interested in this bill," sponsor Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D), joked at the start of her concluding marks.

She went on to castigate the NCAA for a letter that association president Mark Emmert sent in June to the chairs of two Assembly committees in June in which he implied that if the bill becomes law as it is written, California schools could face the prospect of being prohibited from participating in NCAA championships.

"I just want to say, 'NCAA, don't threaten California. Don't threaten us'," Kamlager-Dove said. "Because we have formidable schools. We have formidable alumni. And we have formidable viewership. And we can leverage those things until 2023, when this bill takes effect. I'm sick of being leveraged by the NCAA on the backs of athletes who have the right to their own name and image."