editorial 10.3

On Monday, California passed the Fair Pay to Play Act — the first state-wide legislation allowing student athletes to accept endorsements and money for their names, images or likeness, beginning in 2023.

Pennsylvania state legislators also introduced the possibility of a similar bill, with the same title, on Monday.

If other states don’t hop on this bandwagon, narrowing down choices for student athletes will become much easier, given that they’d likely be more inclined to go to the schools in states where they have the potential to make money.

The Fair Pay to Play Act will have an impact on all collegiate sports. The top one percent of elite, extremely marketable athletes would obviously benefit the most — but there is a lot to gain for athletes in smaller, non-revenue sports as well.

Ideally, what would make the most sense is a law like this be enacted nationally. It is essential that the governing bodies of collegiate athletics understand that it is wrong to profit off of student athletes while prohibiting them to make any money themselves — and California is taking the first step in creating real change.

Student athletes spend their careers without receiving legitimate payments — and going pro isn’t an option for every athlete. The Fair Pay to Play Act would give those students who otherwise wouldn’t get paid for their sport after school to earn some money for their time and dedication.

Skilled hockey players generally choose to take a path to Major Junior hockey in Canada or college in the United States. If a Fair Pay to Play Act is enacted, hockey players will have the option to get an education and get paid by playing at the collegiate level — which could help the NCAA attract more high quality talent.

Jim Delany, commissioner of the Big Ten, already spoke out against the policy, claiming collegiate athletics are a completely separate entity from the professional sphere, and athletes who want to be paid to play have the right to go to the pros.

He also said there is a very small percentage of athletes who would reap the benefits.

Yes — not many student athletes would receive huge endorsement deals from companies like Nike, Gatorade or Under Armour if these laws are enacted. But who is to say a collegiate soccer player at a Big Ten school can’t be endorsed by a small shop or restaurant in their hometown?

Going back to the bigger corporate endorsements, this could also be an incentive for athletes to stay and finish their degrees and continue playing at the collegiate level. We don’t know for sure, but perhaps Saquon Barkley would have stayed at Penn State for his last year if he was able to make money from Nike or Pepsi while he was still here. Maybe talented college basketball players would be less likely to leave after just one year.

Collegiate athletic departments are scared of this possibility because they will likely lose booster money. Why would a wealthy alumnus or alumna make a donation to a school when they can just pay an athlete to endorse the car shop they own in town? That prospect is a much more powerful recruiting tool than, say, a new locker room.

Don’t be fooled, the NCAA, Big Ten and other athletic administrators haven’t spoken out against the law because they value some kind of sanctity associated with college athletics. They value their checkbooks.

As these policies start popping up in states other than California and Pennsylvania, the NCAA will be pressured to make a decision. Would they rather say these schools cannot play an NCAA sanctioned game because their players are getting paid? Or will the law expand too far for that to be a viable option?

At the end of the day, the athletes are the ones who put in the work the fans come to see — governing institutions shouldn’t prevent them from receiving compensation for that.

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