NCAA shares open letter to California governor urging him not to sign new likeness rights bill
The California bill that would allow college athletes to more easily make money off their own name, image and likeness, starting in 2023 has the full attention of the NCAA.
After issuing a brief statement on Tuesday, the NCAA has now released its full response. Here’s the text of the letter addressed to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), which was posted Wednesday morning on NCAA.org:
The 1,100 schools that make up the NCAA have always, in everything we do, supported a level playing field for all student-athletes. This core belief extends to each member college and university in every state across the nation.
California Senate Bill 206 would upend that balance. If the bill becomes law and California’s 58 NCAA schools are compelled to allow an unrestricted name, image and likeness scheme, it would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics and, because it gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage, would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions. These outcomes are untenable and would negatively impact more than 24,000 California student-athletes across three divisions.
Right now, nearly half a million student-athletes in all 50 states compete under the same rules. This bill would remove that essential element of fairness and equal treatment that forms the bedrock of college sports.
The NCAA continues to focus on the best interests of all student-athletes nationwide. NCAA member schools already are working on changing rules for all student-athletes to appropriately use their name, image and likeness in accordance with our values — but not pay them to play. The NCAA has consistently stood by its belief that student-athletes are students first, and they should not be employees of the university.
It isn’t possible to resolve the challenges of today’s college sports environment in this way — by one state taking unilateral action. With more than 1,100 schools and nearly 500,000 student-athletes across the nation, the rules and policies of college sports must be established through the Association’s collaborative governance system. A national model of collegiate sport requires mutually agreed upon rules.
We urge the state of California to reconsider this harmful and, we believe, unconstitutional bill and hope the state will be a constructive partner in our efforts to develop a fair name, image and likeness approach for all 50 states.
Members of the NCAA Board of Governors
The California State Assembly overwhelmingly (72-0) passed the bill on Monday. Current NCAA rules allow athletes to make money from their name, image or likeness, but only under a series of specific conditions, including that no reference can be made to their involvement in college sports. The “involvement in college sports” part was the subject of national news in 2017 when a then-UCF kicker faced eligibility issues over his YouTube videos. California is home to 20 Division I schools, including four members of the Pac-12 Conference (Cal Berkley, Stanford, UCLA and USC).